It seems like only yesterday that we had so much new interest in our technology for eliminating recycling bin contamination within offices that I was furiously trying to manage the supply chain in order to ensure product could be delivered to prospective paying customers. How fast things change. When all the corporate and government offices starting moving to work from home mode, and all the food courts closed down, the team and I had to think fast. One option was to sit around and hope for things to return to the way they were; second option was to try and find a new market for our technology. Hope is never a good business strategy, so I approached one of our corporate customers with an idea and they were incredibly supportive.
Coca Cola had paid for some smart bins but couldn't take delivery given their office was closed to staff. As a company, they are on the record as stating they are supportive of well run container deposit schemes (CDS), and recent moves show their commitment to increasing the supply of recycled PET plastic within Australia. The people I spoke to there were well aware of the contamination problem the Charopy technology was designed to solve, and so when I suggested loaning the bins they had paid for to small businesses impacted by coronavirus restrictions, they didn't hesitate to say yes.
We recently launched this initiative in the Sydney suburb of Beecroft, approximately 23 kms North West of the city. Below you can see a small restaurant owner, who also happens to be a Coca Cola customer, hosting one of these smart bins. Beecroft is a tight knit community with a small local shopping district that the locals are keen to support. In addition, the suburb doesn't have an existing Return & Earn CDS collection point, so it was a great place to trial this temporary pivot and new use for our product. Early signs are positive, and in this particular case, it has made a significant positive difference to the business featured.
I wrote 'temporary pivot' in the title of this post as I firmly believe the long term future for our technology lies with offices, food courts, hospitals, stadiums, schools and other locations where a reasonable number of single use drink containers are purchased and where ensuring a clean stream of 'CDS only' material is problematic. That said, nothing like a recession to make you re-think your assumptions and maybe over time I'll broaden my view as to the sites where Charopy has a role to play. I am sure that at some point in the not too distant future staff will start returning to their offices, food courts will reopen, stadiums will be full of fans, children will return to schools, and sustainability managers will renew their focus on improving recycling outcomes within their organisations.
In the meantime, being able to make a difference to a struggling small business whilst still improving environmental outcomes seems like a very worthwhile temporary pivot - much better than just sitting around hoping for things to return to the way they were.
May 7th 2020 update to this post
I happened to drop into Pappastir in Beecroft yesterday and was very pleasantly surprised to see that the owner had two new workers in there making fresh dumplings to sell to his expanded customer base. A small business expanding during these challenging times - now that is a good news story. I was also very pleased to see the local community getting behind the Charopy CDS smart bin with a decent collection of plastic bottles and aluminium cans. He has already raised enough money to start supplying free food to some local people doing it tough at the moment, and the first meals have already gone out to some people in need.
It is great when a previously untested idea really works out the way you had hoped for. I've worked in innovation long enough to know that is definitely not always the case. It is even better to see both a local small business and some local residents being able to benefit, not to mention the improved recycling outcomes that come from diverting co-mingled kerbside recycling into the CDS stream. A real win - win - win at a time when wins are much harder to come by.