Temasek Foundation Youth Call for Action Grant x Upcircle
With the support and funding from Temasek Foundation’s Youth Call for Action Grant, Upcircle implemented a doorstep collection program for recyclables. The biggest challenge we’ve identified in domestic recycling is the commingled collection, resulting in contamination. We hypothesized that there are residents who want to do recycling right but are discouraged by frequently contaminated blue bins. We, therefore, set out to collect sorted recyclables at source - from their doorsteps.
Working with two different Residents’ Networks, Punggol’s Coraltree and Ang Mo Kio Cherry Tree RN, Upcircle implemented our program. We reached residents through WhatsApp group chats, Facebook pages and put up posters in lift lobbies, to inform the residents of the respective communities of the program Residents with recyclables are encouraged to book a pick-up slot via a dedicated website to have specified recyclables picked up.
Throughout the 4-month program, a total of 131 households subscribed to our collections, with 37 completed pickups. We received high-quality recyclables directly from households with ZERO contamination. A total of 380kg of recyclables from textiles, plastics, and e-waste was collected through the project.
The recyclables collected were sorted and good condition items were resold in our community thrift store in Cheng San CC The rest of the items were recycled through other existing projects. (https://www.upcircle.app/circular-hubs)
One of the main challenges that we encountered in the project was that the project ran in tandem with the Blue-bin initiative. We found ourselves fighting and duplicating efforts of the blue bins. Most residents, already using blue bins, were initially confused by the new initiative.
Pivot 1: We quickly redirected our focus to recyclables that are not collected by the blue bins.
Another difficulty we faced, especially at the early stages of the project, was the lack of direct channels to the residents. It was challenging to broadcast the initiative and to generate interest within the respective communities. It hampered our ability to maximise our reach and limited the potential of the project.
Pivot 2: We diversified the platforms we used to reach out, utilsing both online and offline platforms to not only disseminate information but to also connect with the residents.
Finally, we faced a low ROI for doing weekly door-to-door collections and ended up only picking up from just 5-10 households per week while still incurring per-trip transport costs.
The Future: Upcircle App
We believe that the scale is currently best served by the Upcircle app. The app connects individuals who care about the recyclability and upcycling options of their items to initiatives and others in the community who are sourcing these materials.
Creating a one-stop shop for recyclables will maximise our reach and the potential upcycling opportunities within the community. Additionally, this will also solve the low ROI of the collection services as the app can streamline the collection process.
If you have any projects or collaborative ideas, do get in touch with us! @upcircleapp
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