Phnom Penh, economic and administrative center of Cambodia, is considered as a small capital in South East Asia. The city is populated with 1.5 million inhabitants and counts many less sky scrapers than others capitals in the area.
Today, Phnom Penh produces 1200 tons of waste everyday. Unfortunately, the waste collecting and sorting system in the city is not really efficient and there is a clear lack of trash bins in public areas. That is why in some districts it is easy to see along the streets a lot of garbage. We have also to keep in mind that plastic appears very late in that country: in the 70th and people did not change their habits and still throw away their plastic waste anywhere. Today, all kind of waste ends up at the landfill…
In this context, a new generation begins to think about how solving environmental issues with technology. More and more contests and events are settled up by tech incubators and by the government to help these new young entrepreneurs. That is during one of these contests that SmartBin, an innovative sorting bin, was born. We met its founders in Phnom Penh.
SmartBin has been selected by Impact Hub Phnom Penh to follow their acceleration program and helping them to transform their idea into a viable business model. The structure, encouraging social entrepreneurship, is the Youth Ecolab for sustainable and fair environmental solutions.
As the project name suggests it, SmartBin is a new tech-bin that make easy the waste sorting and encourage it by providing points to reward good sorting. This technology can optimize the collection of recyclable waste and lower the cost of recycled products. SmartBin is run by 4 young Cambodians, some are still students and others just begin to work.
The main objective of this solution is to change people behaviors concerning waste sorting by given them direct benefits through SmartBin points. They can have discounts to purchase, eat, move...
The other innovation in the SmartBin is that all these bins are connected to a centralized system. It is thus possible to follow in real-time the amount of wastes in each bin. When a bin is full, the system warns the collector and optimizes his collection path corresponding to the location and the filling level.
By improving the collection process and lowering the sorting cost for recyclable wastes, SmartBin team can sell with a lower price these raw material for recycled products.
WHAT NOW ?
SmartBin has already developed a functional demo prototype they can show in events and contests. That includes the physical bin, the hardware of the whole system and the software with the phone app. One of the next steps is to raise funds in order to design a real prototype of the bin for which the price has been estimated. Some discussions with the public authorities are already taken about the implementation in public areas.
The SmartBin team plans to keep developing quickly the community and the partnerships around their innovative product. They have already a large list of counterparts for SmartBin points in Phnom Penh.
Some questions still have to be tackled, especially about the SmartBin positioning regarding the current market. First, which hiring strategy to have for the collecting employees, because today only one company is in charge of the waste management in Phnom Penh. Will SmartBin should act as a competitor of this actor? Furthermore, is the recycled product sector ready to welcome a higher amount of recyclable waste and reduce the purchasing cost?
This type of project illustrates well the complexity for innovative products to get in deeply rooted markets, especially public ones. One key point would be to understand well the functioning of the local urban ecosystem and to deal with the already present actors to facilitate the establishment of new chains.