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Small Matters - small format plastic recycling

Re-imagining the plastic waste recycling process to optimize for recycling of small format plastics

Photo of Shatik Dua
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Most small format plastics are not recycled even after making it to the materials recovery facilities (MRFs). The size of these plastics makes it difficult for machines as well as humans to efficiently separate them and ship for recycling. What if we can find a better way to keep these small format plastics segregated from rest of the recyclable waste? 

Imagine the bustling cafeteria of a tech company in SF Bay Area during lunch time. A diverse set of young and environmentally conscious people who prefer to eat on the go just got their lunch. Once they are done eating they make sure they arrange their waste as recycle, compost or landfill and throw it in the right bins. And still the small plastics will end up in the land fill. How can we avoid this?

We propose a new way to collect small format plastics. Adding a fourth bin that's meant to collect only small plastics. Once the small plastics are collected and sent to the MRFs, there will be a dedicated conveyor belt to gather the plastics based on their material. This will make the task of other segregating other waste more efficient and reduce the % of waste that ends up in landfill. 

Workplace cafeterias are a great place to start implementation of this program. They have positive network effects and critical mass to make valuable impact. 



Idea Title

Small Matters

Company / Organization Name

OpenIDEO Palo Alto Chapter

Where are you / your team located?

Palo Alto, California, USA

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Persona: Anne, Coffee shop owner / Workplace cafeteria owner Use Case: Straws, take-away lids, bottle caps, tear offs and other small format plastic waste that are widely used of workplace cafeterias

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Regions like San Francisco Bay Area which have density of offices with cafeterias and environment conscious demographic who prefer to eat on the go

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

OpenIDEO Workshop - Palo Alto, California

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Hi Shatik Dua 

Interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Thank you for being such an incredible community member--and participating in our OpenIDEO Palo Alto Chapter event. It was a pleasure to spend some time ideating with your team, and amazing to see this idea coming to life on the platform!