This Filipino-Made App Rewards Users For Recycling Their Plastic Waste

Help the environment and get rewarded too.

TrashCash aims to educate users about their plastic waste and incentivize them when they segregate and recycle plastics properly.

Related: This Earth Day, Here Are 7 Ways You Can Help Out The Environment In Your Local Community

Plastics are a part of our daily lives, literally and figuratively. The majority of what we buy and use is made out of plastic, from disposable cups and utensils to the wrappers of our chips and snacks, and even garbage bags themselves. While it has become easier to use and have access to recyclable and sustainable items, plastics are still for the most part being used on the daily.

As we all know, plastic waste is harmful to the environment primarily because they take so long to decompose. It would take 450 years for a single plastic bottle to fully decompose. That’s longer than the Spanish colonization of the Philippines (333 years). Because of this, they can clog up drainage systems and cause flash floods, hurt or kill marine life, and fill landfills with toxic pollutants. This is why it is important that plastic waste has to be disposed of and recycled properly. One Filipino thought of a creative way to encourage others to do so. And the best part is that you get paid doing it.

TRASHCASH

Benjoe Vidal, a 28-year-old software engineer, and environmentalist created TrashCash, a start-up and a mobile app that helps you recycle your plastic waste, and in return, you get rewarded. In an interview with the Philippine Star, Vidal said that he wanted the app to help local communities effectively deal with plastic waste littering, especially in high foot-traffic areas like tourists spots. The app is also meant to encourage fellow Filipinos to properly dispose of their discarded plastics.

“As a traveler myself, and I’m also a hiker, ang dami kong nakikita na mga basura sa kapaligiran natin and sobrang nakakasira talaga siya ng environment. Doon nag-start ‘yung idea na why not incentivize ‘yung mga community to prevent ‘yung mga plastic o ‘yung mga basurang kung saan-saan lang napupunta.

The app was first conceived during Impact Hub Manila’s 2019 Impact Hackathon, an event Vidal joined and won. With the help of some of his friends, Vidal developed the app and launched it in December 2020 on Google Playstore. An iOS version is currently in development and may be released later this year.

HOW IT WORKS

TrashCash is AI-driven and uses machine learning algorithms to determine and recognize different plastic materials so that users will have an easier time segregating. The app works by letting users scan plastics through their smartphones. Once scanned, the app will reveal the value of the plastic and its category. They are then directed towards nearby recycling drop-off points where they can drop off their plastic waste. Doing so will earn the user trashpoints. The trashpoints can then be saved in a digital wallet, be exchanged for grocery items, or other products and services from TrashCash’s partners. There is even a leaderboard to show who has the most points.  

Once dropped, the plastic recyclables will be brought to Sentinel UpCycling Technologies, which will then turn the plastic waste into new useful items such as crates and trash bins.

As of this writing, Barangay 69 in Tondo, Manila is the only community that has adopted the TrashCash system so far, but Vidal said that he is currently in the works to establish more partnerships with LGUs and barangays to have more drop-off locations. Participating LGUs will receive 60% of the gross revenue from the sale of collected materials while 40% goes to TrachCash.

TYPES OF PLASTIC WASTE

Currently, TrashCash separates its acceptable plastic waste into six categories based on their chemical composition:

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) – soft drinks, sports drink, and mineral water plastic bottles; vegetable oil bottles, mouthwash bottles, jelly jars

HDPE (high-density polyethylene) – lotion and milk containers, juice bottles, yogurt tubs, bleach detergent bottles, motor oil bottles; soft drinks and mineral water bottle rings and caps

LDPE (low-density polyethylene) – dry cleaning bags, bread bags, online shopping pouches, frozen food, and grocery bags, squeezable and dispensing bottles, candy pouches,

PP (polypropylene) – microwaveable containers, syrup bottles, Yakult tubs, straws, dishware, baby milk bottles, some auto parts

PS (polystyrene) – disposable plates, disposable cutlery, CD cases

Other (miscellaneous plastic) – gas containers, water gallons, plastic lumber, headlight lenses, sachets, facial cleanser, and shampoo containers.

Aside from working with other LGUs and barangays, TrashCash is also in partnership with Clean Our Oceans Project. The app also has attracted attention abroad as it made it to the Top 18 innovators list of the United Nations Development Programme in its Ending Plastic Pollution Innovation Challenge 2021. If you want to try TrashCash out, you can download it on the Google Playstore. You can also check out their official website and Facebook page to know more about the app.

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