Plastic waste has become a deadly threat to our environment. In Sri Lanka, its mismanagement has led to polluted waterways, blocked drains, and even the spread of diseases such as dengue. Unfortunately, only 30% of Sri Lanka’s plastic waste is collected and even less recycled. Seeing the crisis unfolding in front of us, Price Ur Plastic aims to solve it by literally paying you for your trash.
!dea Factory – the team behind the platform
Price Ur Plastic is the brainchild of !dea Factory, a Sri Lankan social innovations lab in Jaffna. Founded 3 years ago by Anu Rakavan and Aneas Jerron, the chemist and physicist duo have been exploring how technology can be used to save the environment. When it comes to the issue of plastic waste, they discovered the easiest way to encourage recycling was the simplest. By gamifying the process and making it fun, it’s possible to get people to recycle their plastic bottles. All the while following proper waste management protocols. Thus, Price Ur Plastic was born.
Making the most out of Price Ur Plastic
At its core, Price Ur Plastic is a series of Reverse Vending Machines to collect plastic bottles. These can be placed at offices, shopping malls, conference halls, and educational institutions.
Using them to recycle your old plastic bottles and get paid is straightforward. Simply enter your phone number and once the bottles are disposed you’ll get an SMS informing you of the points you gained. Once the machines are full, the local municipal council or plastic collectors will recycle the bottles accordingly.
As users rise through the ranks, they unlock achievements and even cash prizes on the prototype Price Ur Plastic app. The gamified process for waste collection by !dea Factory has several benefits. It instils friendly competition among the community to help the environment.
How has the platform grown, and where is it headed?
Like any startup journey, the !dea Factory team overcame numerous challenges building Price Ur Plastic. The most critical of these was to create a sustainable business model that guaranteed plastic waste doesn’t return to the environment. In keeping up with their mantra of sustainability, the team at !dea Factory uses upcycled components for the fabrication of their products. This allows them to minimise production costs while building a rapidly scalable solution to plastic waste in Sri Lanka. Having overcome the challenges they faced, Price Ur Plastic was launched at the Jaffna International trade fair 2020 with a CD used to power the functionality of the reverse vending machine.
This focus on sustainability gave Price Ur Plastic a place in the 2020 cohort of the ICTA’s Spiralation programme. Being 1 of the 20 startups accepted into the programme, !dea Factory received technical and business support, mentorship from senior business leaders, and market access opportunities among the many other benefits offered through the programme. The programme is currently accepting applications for its latest cohort. If you’re running a tech startup then you can click here to apply.
The upcoming stages of the platform’s commercialization include the launch of the plastic bottle collection system in strategic locations outside Colombo, such as the University of Jaffna. The latter was launched on Global Recycling Day. Furthermore, with the expansion to these regions, the company expects to educate locals via job opportunities and training programs on tech and innovation. Following this, the team is also looking to improve their reward system by partnering with various environment-conscious companies that can provide better incentives to their customers through the platform. Could this be the turning point for mismanaged plastic waste in Sri Lanka?