Even though Uber has bowed out of Singapore and most of Southeast Asia, its name remains as a generic trademark for hassle-free ride-sharing that revolutionized the way we travel, made possible by smart phones.
What if we could do the same with recycling?
What if we could, with a few taps on our phones, have someone come and collect our recyclable waste?
Actually, it’s already a reality. But will this new development disrupt and redefine the waste management industry the way Uber did with the ride-hailing industry? It still remains to be seen but these companies are already making a difference in the community they operate in.
ReciclApp is created by a Chile-based startup that allows the App users to schedule recyclable waste collection. The company then charts the most efficient collection route and sends it to collectors they partner with.
Rubicon, a US-based app links businesses and municipalities with waste requirements to a network of independent waste collectors and recyclers. Through their app, they aim to raise awareness and encourage recycling through end-user education and divert recyclable waste streams away from landfills.
Recycle Track Systems (RTS) is another US-based company that offers a software platform and mobile app for regular waste collections and on-demand pick-ups for both regular waste and bulky items like broken furniture.
Innovation or Disruptive Innovation?
Although this new development hasn’t turned the industry on its head by offering customers something that previously didn’t exist, it is certainly an innovation breakthrough that makes an existing service better, cheaper or faster. Here are some of the value-add benefits that It offers:
By enabling individuals and organizations alike to request collections when the bins are full, their waste management fees can be optimized. Some apps also require the waste collection services providers to bid for the request, resulting in competitive price quotes.
Most waste collection services have designated days for collecting specific types of waste. With on-demand waste collection services, users can have their waste collected as and when required.
Education and Awareness
When users enter the specific quantities of each type of waste in the apps, they gain a better understanding of the types of trash they are generating, as well as what’s recyclable and what isn’t. The awareness raised goes a long way in encouraging recycling within the community.
This model creates greater efficiencies for waste collectors. The apps show the waste collectors the most efficient routes and locations with guaranteed amounts of recyclables. This allows them to make more trips with less time. Data on trash volumes also allows haulers to plan and optimize their hauling trips.
In Chile, waste collectors are often perceived as dumpster divers and treated with dismay. With ReciclApp, this perception is changing. As more people use the app, they start to seeindividual waste collectors as doing legitimate work instead of scavengers “who scour through the garbage”. This adds a boost to their self-esteem and allows them to take pride in the work they do.
Will Uber-for-Recycling Take Off?
Based on their current performance, it seems that these recycling services are more likely to succeed when these criteria are met:
- A combination of high mobile Internet penetration and a tech-savvy population increases the likelihood of end-users being receptive to disruptive technology.
- Where municipal recycling efforts are ineffective or absent, there is also a gap for these recycling services to fill.
- A low awareness of recycling, usually due to a lack of effective municipal efforts. This presents untapped potential (and waste) that these services can return to the supply stream.
- A ready pool of independent waste collectors to connect end-users with. The more fragmented the pool of collectors are, the bigger the value-add from the apps’ matchmaking services.
Meanwhile, investors are expressing their confidence in these businesses by voting with their wallets. Rubicon’s valuation grew to exceed USD 1 billion between 2010 and 2018, while RTS had raised USD 11.7 million in 2017 alone.
However, whether these businesses can transform their industry the way Uber did for transportation still remains an unknown. Only time can tell.