Currently, 7.9 million people (locals & visitors) reside in Bali, Indonesia. This population generates 3,452 cubic meters of waste each day, 75% of which ends up burned or in illegal dumping sites. The Indonesian government provides limited waste collection services to a small number of high-density, urban areas in Bali. Therefore, if a household, hotel, or restaurant (i.e., waste generator) wants its trash collected, it usually has to find and pay a private party for that service.
Since there is little incentive or regulation encouraging citizens to dispose of trash properly, 50% of households don’t utilize any type of waste management service. This is particularly harmful in Bali where improperly disposed-of trash can negatively impact the beauty of the island and therefore its tourism industry, which accounts for 60-70% of the island’s economy. Trash management and disposal in Bali is an extremely complex problem, but the good news is nearly everything being thrown away has value. It must be sorted and disposed of properly, but Bali’s trash is actually treasure.
A small subset of the population is already making a living from Bali’s trash. In the “formal” waste management economy, waste collection companies have emerged with a pay-for-pick-up model offered to waste generators. On the “informal” side, scavengers on motorbikes scramble to collect anything they think has value from wherever in the waste lifecycle they can find it (local trash depots, outside of households, landfills, etc.). They aggregate all of the waste that has value and pass it along to their scavenger bosses, who then sell the bulk waste to a materials recovery facility. Bali’s relatively low current recycling rate (far more recyclables are consumed than are recycled) indicates significant potential to give people the opportunity to earn a livable wage while also addressing the tremendous waste problem.
Enter our AMR project clients, Kopernik and Olivier Pouillon of Bali Recycling. Kopernik, a Bali-based non-profit, was founded in 2010 to fight poverty by helping to connect last mile, most marginalized populations with simple, life-changing technology globally. Past technologies delivered included solar lamps, water filters, clean cookstoves, and educational toys. The waste issue in Bali is a passion project for Kopernik because of its location.
Prior to commencing our consulting project, Kopernik and their partner Olivier, jointly developed the hypothesis that an effective solution to Bali’s waste problem would include a type of trailer (to safely transport the trash behind a motorbike) and a smartphone app (to connect waste collectors with waste generators). The original scope of our project was to: 1) refine the trailer design (using both geographic comparables as well as on-the-ground interviews); 2) segment the market of waste generators and collectors; and 3) develop a marketing plan for both scavengers and generators.
However, over the last few months, based on our research and our client’s direction, our project has evolved into a complete start-up strategy. Not only are we pursuing secondary and primary research to develop a comprehensive trailer-app-education solution, but we are also researching implementation considerations including financial modeling for investor pitches and recommendations on where and how to launch a social enterprise that will run the solution.
We have approached this project in three phases: Scoping, Research and Validation. Phase 1 (Scoping) was completed in September 2015, where the team first scoped out the Bali waste management situation through weekly client meetings and a short-term level setting visit. Phase 2 (Research) was completed in December 2015 as the team finished conducting extensive secondary research to uncover comparable solutions to similar issues from around the world. In an attempt to better understand these existing waste management solutions, the team then conducted more than 20 interviews with subject matter experts. The team then provided trailer feature recommendations to the client prior to prototype development.
Phase 3 (Validation) occurred in January 2016 during our research trip to Bali. The team was armed with an understanding of global waste management systems and hypotheses for a Bali-specific solution and spent three weeks in Bali interviewing various stakeholders, testing those hypotheses, and testing trailer prototypes derived from our secondary research findings.
More than 125 total interviews were conducted including over 75 interviews and completed surveys with waste collectors and scavengers and over 50 interviews and completed surveys with waste generators such as households, homestays, hotels and restaurants. The team also interviewed schools, banjars (village cooperatives), waste banks, and trash depot operators to explore partnership and implementation opportunities. Every day, we visited trash depots, trash dumps, and trash landfills and scoured the streets to look for waste collectors and generators to interview. We were literally running after garbage trucks to help us locate trash dumps and depots where we could find waste collectors and scavengers to interview.
We continuously edited and improved our surveys based on the insights the team gained the day before. One example is the Maximum Difference Analysis we aimed to conduct on the trailer attributes. This involved asking waste collectors and scavengers to pick the best and worst attribute within a set several times which was both time-consuming and confusing for the survey respondents. We iterated this process by printing out each set with photos of the attributes being tested. This tactic exponentially increased understanding and response rates.
Overall, the experience was both eye opening and rewarding! The waste ecosystem in Bali is very complex and being on the ground to witness it firsthand was essential to our project. We are extremely grateful for our engaged and invested clients – both Kopernik and Olivier were integral in helping us collect data in the field and shared immense industry knowledge with us. The waste collectors and generators we interviewed were amazingly friendly and willing to share their experiences with us. We definitely got to see a side of Bali that most don’t!
Our last team member who was still on the ground in Bali had one final experience that we all view as the perfect ending to our trip. He was taking a taxi back from dinner and in chatting with the driver, mentioned that he is a student from the U.S. The driver said “Oh, there are American students here working on the trash problem right now!” Turns out at least some of us had spoken to people in his banjar (village government) asking about trash and recycling, and since then the banjar has been having discussions about whether they should do things differently. We’re happy that we are at the very least getting people talking about trash!