TrashBack acts as a platform to change apathy into action through an altered perception of waste.

TrashBack acts as a platform to change apathy into action through an altered perception of waste.

South Africa
< $1,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

TrashBack is part of a growing social and environmental movement for change in South Africa. The project incentivises disadvantaged communities to manage their own waste and recycle, combining elements of service delivery, environmental awareness and social upliftment. The potential benefits of this are threefold; firstly more waste will be recycled and thus directed away from landfills, contributing to Target 7A of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). Secondly cleaner communities will result, instilling pride and dignity and a greater sense of place contributing to Target 7D of the MDG’s. Thirdly the project can provide both informal and formal employment, contributing to local social upliftment which in turn will contribute to MDG’s Targets 1A and 1B.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our project is targeted at communities living in previously disadvantaged areas in South Africa known as townships or informal settlements. These areas are often underdeveloped and lack proper infrastructure and services such as toilets, sewage systems and water facilities. Prior to the end of Apartheid in 1994, these areas were reserved for non-whites and were built on the periphery of towns and cities. Since the end of Apartheid the populations of these previously disadvantaged areas have dramatically increased as hundreds of thousands of black people living in homelands were able to move to urban areas in search of a better life. Many of these new inhabitants had very little and erected informal housing, known as shacks, made from tin and wood. Furthermore, the unemployment rates in townships is extremely high lending itself to high crime rates and poverty. Consequently, the majority of the community is focused on day to day survival and very little attention is paid towards the local environment. We will be launching the TrashBack Uphindo Phinda! pilot in the Imizamo Yethu (IY) township situated in Hout Bay in Cape Town. The estimated population of IY is 33600 living in an estimated 10700 dwellings covering an area of 18 hectares. It was also here during 2009 that a pilot project aimed at educating and investigating whether residents living in an informal area are prepared to separate waste at source in order to prevent pollution and divert resources entering the waste stream and landfill sites. During the pilot there were no incentives offered to the participating community members and the system subsequently failed because community members did not want to do extra work when they believed that it would benefit another group of people without compensation for their own efforts. Learning from this past pilot, our model is based on rewards and compensation.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

TrashBack is a novel social enterprise which combines environmental sustainability, social upliftment, job creation and service delivery for disadvantaged communities. In order words, it mitigates the amount of waste that goes to landfills, educates community members about the dangers of land pollution and sanitises the local environment. More so, it creates both informal and formal green employment; thus, economically empowering these under-served communities. TrashBack Uphinda Phindo! operates an innovative two-tiered incentive scheme; top waste collectors and the lucky draw. Basically, when community members bring in a predetermined volume of recyclables, they will be issued with a certain number of tickets. Those that have the most tickets will be guaranteed a prize, whilst the rest of the collectors will be entered into the lucky draw. The prizes will consist of hampers of food, clothing, airtime, travel vouchers, stationary or books. Ultimately, TrashBack Uphinda Phindo! offers community members the opportunity to translate rubbish into rewards for simply bringing ‘worthless’ items to our Co-Op. Additionally, TrashBack breaks stereotypes and alters perceptions. Through an altered perception of waste by members of the communities in which TrashBack operates, we will enact a paradigm shift and facilitate a move away from environmental apathy to environmental stewardship.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The essence of TrashBack Uphinda Phindo! is to incentivise disadvantaged communities to manage their own waste and recycle. Communities are encouraged to take pride in their local environment and get rewarded for it. Since all the income from selling collected recyclables is used to run the collection centre and pay community members who work there, one of our primary tasks is to source rewards for collectors and distribute them accordingly on a fortnightly basis. We are also in charge of setting up the necessary infrastructure and ensuring that collectors are routinely updated about the project via their cellphones and marketing events. TrashBack will also use the collected recyclable and non-recyclable waste to produce marketable products, otherwise known as upcycling. This process will add value to the once worthless waste and generate further income and hence employment for the communities involved. To complement TrashBack Uphinda Phindo! and our upcycling initiative, TrashBack will educate previously disadvantaged communities about their environment and waste management. Through an altered perception of waste, we aim to help the communities develop a level of appreciation and respect for their local environments. Furthermore, we will provide training to unskilled youth and women who work at the collection centres.
About You
TrashBack - Rewards for Rubbish
About You
First Name


Last Name


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About Your Organization
Organization Name

TrashBack - Rewards for Rubbish

Organization Country

, WC

Country where this project is creating social impact

, WC

How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

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What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Nicholas is a past Environmental Management Honours graduate from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. He is also one of the founding members of UCT’s student run sustainability organisation, the Green Campus Initiative (GCI), the aim of which is to involve staff and student to make a carbon neutral and fully sustainable campus. This initiative has gone from strength to strength in the last 4 year since its conception. Nicholas was co-project manager of the Sustainable residences portfolio of the GCI and was largely involved in installing the on campus and self catering residence recycling systems. He now works for a company, green24, as a sustainability researcher & writer, spreading the green word via an Internet based platform for sustainability advice. Through his years spent abroad travelling and years of study and work, Nicholas has grown to be greatly passionate about sustainability and more specifically of solid waste recycling in the diverse South African environment. He struggles to see the point of landfills when most materials are reusable and recyclable, and cringes every time something useful is wasted. The current state of affairs in South Africa, the potential opportunities for change and other international successes of similar projects, has inspired Nicholas and his TrashBack colleagues to found the TrashBack incentivised recycling initiative. Their aim is to change perceptions of waste in the mindsets of both the rich and the poor so that the future generations may also have something to be proud of.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Trashback Uphinda Phindo! is due to launch in July 2011 in Imizamo Yethu (IY) in Hout Bay, Cape Town South Africa. Since the project has not yet launched we are unable to describe our successes to date. However, we do have a number of metrics that will be used to gauge its success once the project has launched.

The first success measure is a qualitative analysis of the township carried out by comparing ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs to ascertain the extent to which the project has incentivised the community members to clean up IY. Coupled with this will be surveys used to gauge the community’s response to the project.

Since the initial launch of the project will be a pilot we will need to continuously tweak and refine our model until it is optimal. To this end, we will require a set of well defined metrics to guide us. The first of which is the weight of recyclables collected. The IY community outputs an estimated 20 tonnes of recyclables per month and if we are able to capture all of these recyclables then our project would be a success and we would have helped divert an extra 20 tonnes of waste away from the landfill.
The second metric that we will consider is the number of participants/households who use our services. The more collectors that use our services, the more informal employment we will be providing which will then translate into increased upliftment for the community. We will also want to check if the collectors repeatedly use our services or if most people only participate once and then don’t return.
We would also like to use the number of winners and the size of the prizes as metrics because then we will be able to gauge the magnitude of our impact and also what percentage of collectors are being awarded prizes.
Finally, we will track how many permanent jobs are being created at the HBR co-op and the income levels for all stakeholders.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

In the short term we will launch TrashBack Uphinda Phindo! in Imizamo Yethu in Cape Town. The pilot project will last for six months and during this time we will iron out any initial teething problems whilst simultaneously analysing the communities' perceptions to recycling, their local environment and their response to our incentives.
Following the completion of the pilot, we will begin expanding our impact by scaling our context adaptable incentive based model to other previously disadvantaged communities in Cape Town and expand our operations into the upcycling sector. Through upcycling, we will be able to generate additional income for the respective communities.
Finally, we plan to scale to other regions of South Africa and Nigeria and begin incorporating educational programs.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Barrier: Lack of market acceptance
Previous recycling initiatives in Imizamo Yethu (IY) have failed because there were issues around the lack of distribution of earnings from the recyclables, thus there was insufficient motivation for community members to become actively involved in recycling. We believe that our initiative will overcome this barrier as the Cambio Verde program did in Curitiba, Brazil. We already have members of the community who are passionate about the project and will act as champions, encouraging the community to become and remain involved.

Barrier: Lack of sponsorship
We believe that our project has potential to create positive change in informal settlements, to such a degree that Uphinda Phindo! is an attractive project for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Our team will ensure that there is sufficient investment to secure the prizes that the project requires.

Barrier: Competition
There are currently no other incentivized recycling initiatives in Cape Town nor are there any initiatives planned by government for the near future. We would be first to market and hence aim to capture the majority of the market (individuals in informal settlements) from outset. If however, competitors should arise, we will suggest collaborative effort. We will always ensure that the best service delivery is offered to the community members.

Barrier: Failure of recycling station
The HBR co-op is currently being supported by individuals from the more affluent areas of Hout Bay. Although they produce more recyclable waste per household, the IY area generates a substantial amount of waste, which is estimated to equal the total amount of waste currently brought by affluent individuals. The recycling station will therefore greatly benefit if the Uphinda Phindo! project is successful, but it does not rely on this success in order to continue running.

Tell us about your partnerships

We are working with Green Living, a nonprofit organisation which promotes awareness of local and global environmental issues, sustainability, self sufficiency and conservation of resources. They work on projects in four areas of sustainability: Recycling and Waste Reduction, Local Food Growth, Energy Efficiency, and Water Conservation. They have already been very active in the community of Hout Bay for a number of years.

Hout Bay Recycling (HBR) is a cooperative drop off station which has also been operating for a number of year. It currently services some of the more affluent homes in the Hout Bay area. Situated on the fringe of the Imizamo Yethu (IY) informal settlement, HBR is conveniently located next to the main entrance to the settlement. However, despite its location, little recycling comes from the IY community. HBR has all the necessary infrastructure and staff for the collection and sorting of recyclables. The partnership not only provides a platform for our pilot project, but through TrashBack Uphinda Phindo! the members of the IY community are incentivised to bring in more recyclables. This results in higher earnings for the members of the HBR co-op.

In the near future we plan to enter partnership/collaboration with the Food Bank and Clothing Bank of South Africa. These organisations distribute excess food and clothing to those in need, such as individuals living in informal settlements. Working with such organisations will provide stable access to prizes for TrashBack Uphinda Phindo!, and will also serve as a good outlet for the organisations since the goods are not merely handed out for free, but exchanged for a service which will clean up disadvantaged communities.

Explain your selections

The Trashback Uphinda Phindo! project is a non-profit endeavour and will acquire support from external sources such as businesses and its primary NGO partner, Greenliving.
Greenliving has committed to supply various items essential to the launch of the Uphinda Phindo! pilot. Such items include a computer to record entries, scales to weigh recyclables collected and signage to advertise the project.
Several local businesses in the local Hout Bay area have also been approached for continued sponsorship of prize items such as non-perishable food items, clothing and vouchers exchangeable for food or goods.
Other local, regional and nationally operating business have been approached for sponsorship of the marketing and promotional activities for the project launch, as well as smaller mechanisms of support for the continued operation of the project.
What makes our sponsorship model different and easier for businesses to swallow is that we are asking for support in terms of goods or services already offered by these companies, either at the current price or at a discount. For example, we are asking food and clothing retailers for food and clothing, and a monthly sms allowance from an Internet based bulk sms provider etc. We provide advertising and exposure for those businesses who support our community based social enterprise, and not only will partner businesses be strengthening their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) portfolio’s, but they will also be assisting us achieve our goals of cleaning, greening and uplifting local communities in need.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Firstly, we aim to refine our existing model so we have a functional working blueprint which can be applied in other areas of Cape Town, the Western Cape, South Africa and Africa. We aim to do this by ironing out any sticking point that arise during the Uphinda Phindo! pilot by adapting to the needs and concerns of all the parties involved, including community members, employees, partners and sponsors. Part of this will entail continuous monitoring and progress/success mechanisms, that will allow us to constantly upgrade and improve the system and implement new practices or processes as the project evolves. We will also encourage and manage criticism and feedback, and do our best to integrate these suggestions into our operations. Apart from this, a continual effort will be made to acquire new sponsorship or renew existing sponsorship agreements. Once we are satisfied with the model and are certain that it is robust and flexible, we will expand the project to other areas. We hope to do this as a joint venture with our existing sponsors and partners. Coupled with this expansion is the introduction of an upcycling initiative. This will provide a platform for local community members to create art and functional objects from the non-recyclable materials, which will subsequently be sold. Not only will this divert additional waste from landfills and create more employment, but more importantly, the whole community will benefit as the added production value of the products will be recycled back into the community and used for further project development and expansion.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Restrictive cultural norms




Lack of skills/training

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

South Africa is in the process of re-balancing the inequalities caused during Apartheid. Part of this process involves the integration of affluent and underprivileged areas. Due to these divisions and the substandard living conditions in the latter, certain restrictive cultural norms have developed. A culture with an under appreciation for the environment and a decreased sense of place has developed due to the more urgent satiation for basic needs. Trashback will address these restrictive cultural norms by instilling a value of the environment, a proactive mindset and a greater sense of place not only into the participants but also the greater community. Additionally, the project will provide a number of jobs, both formal and informal, which will not require many skills nor training.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Grown geographic reach: Multi-country

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

We will first test out model during the pilot in Imizamo Yethu before expanding to other areas in Cape Town. The growth of TrashBack will be in the form of an empowerment franchise whereby a number of local community members will run each collection centre and share the income generated. TrashBack will subsequently expand to a national level before moving north to the rest of Africa.
We will complement TrashBack Uphinda Phindo! with an upcycling component. That is, through the production of products from waste we will add additional value thereby providing additional employment to local communities. Additionally we will extend our program to schools and run an environmental magazine to further educate the communities.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Collaboration with the Green Living organisation has been fruitful due to their advice and guidance. Due to their action in the community, they have a lot of past experience to learn from which has allowed us to learn from failed projects. Studying their past initiatives has given us a better understanding of the community's desires and trends. They have also shared contacts in the local community, sponsorship and support.
The Hout Bay Recycling Co-Op has provided a platform for us to operate TrashBack Uphinda Phindo!. Being able to piggyback on their existing infrastructure will reduce the initial investment costs and shorten the time to launch. This will allow us to focus on service delivery to a large untapped market in IY, and concentrate on refining the franchise-able model.