Forecasting, Brand Strategy and Innovation

Your Trash becomes Cash

Indonesia produces 64 million tons of trash a year, of which 70% is dumped in open landfills. An innovative plan is using the garbage to give the poorest people access to financial services. ”The program originated from the people, it is managed by the people, and the rewards are for the people…” declares the Mutiara Trash Bank. And from an economic point of view, this gets results : Indonesia as a whole last year had 2,800 trash banks operating in 129 cities, with 175,000 account holders !

It’s an initiative we like at Tilt Ideas because it reminds us of Bangladesh’s Grameen’s. And because it is about as far as can be from the technological developments which are disrupting banks elsewhere. Locales are embracing “trash banking” as a way of reducing pressure on ever-growing landfill sites and allowing some of their poorest citizens access to savings and credit. Residents bring recyclable trash such as plastic bottles, paper and packaging to the collection points where the rubbish is weighed and given a monetary value (2,000 rupiah to 3,000 rupiah / 15 cents to 23 cents a week, is the average saving). Like a regular bank, customers are able to open accounts, make deposits, and periodically withdraw funds. The city government commits to purchasing the rubbish at set prices displayed at the bank, ensuring price stability for those bringing trash in. It then sells it on to waste merchants who ship it to plastic and paper mills on the main island of Java.

At other trash banks in the country, account holders can exchange their rubbish directly for rice, phone cards or paying their electricity bills. At the Mutiara Trash Bank, several account holders had signed up for a homework program, whereby local students help younger kids with their homework and are paid directly from the garbage bank.

How about implementing this kind of simple & good initiative also in our urban occidental countries ? If your company or brand have a social utility program, why don’t they launch or associate to such a positive action, as Unilever is doing in Indonesia ?