Strategically located kiosks where users return compostable food and drink takeout containers and receive exchangeable points, or money..
Pitch us on your solution
Many of the plastic food takeout containers in the Caribbean end up in beaches and later in the ocean. Trash cans in popular beaches are usually overflowing and seldomly serviced. To reduce plastic waste in beaches, we want to create a system of solar powered kiosks that can receive compostable containers in exchange for points or money that users can then exchange for something else. We would create a set of compostable takeout containers that have a barcode for the kiosk to scan as it receives them. The person returning the container would receive cash or points sent to their cellphone. Users will later chose to consume food from vendors that have these containers instead of others. The kiosks would compact the containers producing a compostable brick. People would be able to enjoy cleaner spaces and be part of the solution while improving public health and increasing tourism opportunities.
What is the problem you are solving?
Tourist and locals alike consume a massive amount of single use plastics in the Caribbean, especially when purchasing food from vendors. Single use plastic containers end up in beaches (reducing their touristic value and increasing public health risks) and later in the ocean (200,000/square km pieces of plastic in the norther Caribbean sea alone). Some Caribbean islands produce more plastic waste per capita than China, this is a wide spread problem in the Caribbean. Waste management systems in many islands are not able to manage plastic waste in an efficient manner, with half of the single use plastic discarded ending up in waterways. It is not convenient to bring reusable containers to put food and drink obtained from local vendors, especially for tourists visiting the islands from other locations. It is cumbersome for people to take their trash with them and due to volume of clients and sometimes lack of infrastructure, it is hard for vendors to wash reusable containers in an economically feasible way. Although this could be a solution island-wide, dramatically reducing the amount of plastic usage overall, we think starting around touristically valuable beaches may be a good first step.
Who are you serving?
We will work with local governments and waste managers to understand their challenges and capacity to deal with compostable products. We will also work with local vendors, to evaluate the cost of the products they have now and the characteristics that are needed in the compostable containers for them to be useful. We will also work with local tourism operators that can help us understand the barriers visitors encounter to making more environmentally sustainable decisions. We will contact local industry to see if the containers could be produced internally or at least regionally, increasing revenue and jobs for local organizations.
We think the compost generated could be used to improve food security in these islands, where much of the produce comes from abroad, we will contact local organizations to collaboratively find outlets for the compostable bricks and resulting compost.
We will work with local public health officials to produce culturally sensitive messaging that encourages the necessary behavioral shift.
What is your solution?
This project is in the idea phase, much work is still needed.
We will build and provide the kiosks necessary to receive and compact the compostable products, and will provide an initial source of compostable products that have the identification necessary for the rewards process to work. Ideally the compostable products will be able to be produced locally, so simple, low cost production technology is necessary. The prime matter for the compostable product should also be produced locally or regionally, so we will create strategies to inform local efforts to obtain the necessary materials, maybe even using the generated compost for growing the necessary, closing the life cycle of the product.
We will create an app for people to receive redeemable points on their mobile applications.
We will conduct the necessary cost-benefit analysis for the pilot islands, and provide feasibility studies.
We will conduct the necessary market research to inform marketing and rollout strategies.
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:DuPont, WA, USA
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
We have not seen anything like our solution out there. We believe the innovative part of what we want to offer is the reward system, incentivizing users to opt for a product that may have a slightly higher cost but that has an immediate reward. Also, because we plan to make everything open access is that we think this solution could reduce the carbon footprint of the compostables and the kiosk. We expect the whole life cycle of the compostable to be in the region where the solution is implemented, increasing revenue and work opportunities for locals. We also know that a lot of the tourism to the islands is not local, and many want a sustainable option when they buy food from local vendors, right that option does not exist. We we considered using reusable plastics instead of compostables, but because these are food containers, the process of cleaning the plastics would require a larger investment in staff, infrastructure and water (a limited resource in many Caribbean islands). Our solution does not require the product to be transported out of the island (like recycling would require), it can run on solar energy, and its final output is a compost brick that can have multiple uses inside the island, including the growing the raw materials to produce compostable containers. Finally, because of the reward, we believe that even if the compostables are thrown away, there will be people that will sort the discarded products to take them to the kiosk.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
If we offer people a convenient option to single use plastics, where they can deliver their compostables, feel good about themselves and get rewarded immediately, then they will chose compostables over single use plastics, immediately reducing the number of plastics on the beach, increasing visual appeal and touristic opportunities, and eventually reducing the amount of plastic that enters the waterways.
Many of these islands are dealing with great waste management challenges, if we give them the option of implementing a local, low cost way of dealing with half of their plastic waste, they will chose it over more expensive and damaging practices, greatly reducing the amount of plastic waste produced.
Eventually, these kiosks could be at schools, grocery stores, recycling centers, urban gardens, etc. Reducing the plastic waste produced by packaging produce and other foods everywhere, and not just on beaches.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Right now the solution is not in place and is not serving anyone. We help to have at least two pilot islands within the first year, servicing at least 8 specific locations. The number of people serviced will depend on the locations chosen. We hope to have a refined product that is implemented in as many locations as possible by year 5.
How do you measure your solution’s positive impact? If available, what measurable impact have you had in the last three years?
This solution has not been implemented, but we hope for it to have a strong environmental and economical impact on the islands that use it.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
We will make all of our technology and methodology open access. The plastic issue is one of great urgency. We hope other organizations will duplicate and refine our system to make it locally appropriate for the area they want to serve. Eventually we want to vanish the appetite and need for single use plastics.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
This project is in the idea phase, we need funding to prototype it. We are a team of conservationists, policy analysts and industrial designers, we need to partner with people that can produce the application and the kiosk. We know we can find the right people for the project, but without funding is hard to get the necessary commitment.
Financially and technical: We need funding to engage the appropriate team to design and produce the kiosks and the application. We also need to design the compostable containers or partner with an organization that is already creating them and can adapt them to this specific use.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
We are in a in the idea phase, seeking funding and possible partners that have similar goals.
Please select one.
What type of organization is your solution team?
How many people work on your solution team?
Full time: 2 people
Part time: 6 people
Contractors: as needed
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best placed to deliver this solution?
We work with people around conservation conflict, we have the experience necessary to understand the needs and challenges of the people that may want to implement our solution. One of the co-founders is from Argentina, the other is Korean American, we both understand the barriers present in less developed countries and we have a global team that can help us reach local talent.
We are the best team for this because we are flexible and open and will fill knowledge and skill gaps with the right person.
We partner with tech companies as needed.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Orcasound, we are creating an application to help them produce real time data on orca sightings.
What is your business model?
We plan to sell this product to municipalities and local government as well as food vendors. The local government will benefit by having less plastic trash to manage and having access to the compost produced. They will also benefit from more appealing beaches that could increase tourism and less public health issues associated to trash in public spaces. The local vendors would benefit by the increase in tourism and environmentally conscious costumers. We think the local production of compostable food containers would provide new job opportunities and revenue.
For the pilot islands we will provide the compacting kiosk, an implementation plan, a marketing strategy and a place to initially source the compostable food containers.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We have not created one yet.
Why are you applying to the Rethink Plastics Challenge?
We am applying to this challenge because we work in the wildlife conservation field and we see the horrible damage plastics are doing to our marine species. People are being impacted too, and if we continue the way we are, we will leave a very sad world to our children. I feel a lot of urgency for innovative solutions, but these have to be economically feasible for countries with less money to spend in conservation and sustainability, and they have to engage the local communities.
I am applying because we need funding for this idea, we believe in it, but we do not have the contacts or the skill to raise the necessary funding. We are a women and minority owned organization and we are learning our way through the financial labyrinth of social enterprises. We also need talent, like minded individuals or teams that can help us build our product.
Lastly, we need a platform to share our idea with the world, as a small and new organization, it is really hard to find your footing and we do not know how to do it. We come from academia and government, we lack the necessary contacts and experience, we hope this award will help us learn, grow and change the world.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
An organization that can help us design and produce the compacting kiosks. An organization to help us develop the mobile application. we will also partner with local conservation organizations in the islands where we will pilot the project.
We will also have to partner with someone that produces the compostables, at least initially, although we would like to design a way for these compostables to be designed locally in each location.