Octopus gig workers keep plastic waste out of Indonesia's landfills

Worldwide, communities rely on informal trash collection by waste pickers who sort through household and commercial refuse, looking for materials that can be sold to resellers. While providing a valuable service, the pickers are exposed to contaminants and hazardous materials. And massive amounts of plastic and other garbage still end up burned or in landfills.

In Indonesia, Octopus is attempting to create a better system by directly involving those who produce waste. Consumers download an app, separate their recyclables and indicate how many bottles and other containers can be picked up from their home. After they book a time slot, pickers — called pelestari, or conservationists — are pinged to collect the trash, which is then sold to recycling businesses.

By taking waste directly from consumers, the pelestari no longer need to pick through trash, making for safer work and producing cleaner materials that sell for higher prices. Because their gig-work labor is formalized, the pickers build verifiable employment history, can open bank accounts and gain access to credit. Octopus also provides a training program through its app. As reported by TechCrunch, the startup hopes to involve 100,000 pelestari by 2024.

While selling recyclables is part of the business model, the other is to help FMCG companies comply with their ESG targets and collect data. Among others, Octopus is working with Danone Aqua to increase the collection rate of their PET bottles and with Kimberly-Clark-owned Softex to collect and recycle diapers.

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For consumers, Octopus provides a free and convenient way to ensure their trash is recycled correctly, enabling them to reduce their environmental impact with a minimal amount of hassle. Meanwhile, FMCG brands gain access to a data-driven system that lowers the burden their packaged goods place on people and the planet.

When governments aren't willing or able to deliver the services needed for society to function smoothly, people are increasingly open to other organizations filling those institutional gaps. How can your brand initiate meaningful change that your customers can be part of?

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