New project looks to digitise transactions between waster pickers and buy-back centres

Project Up by PETCO, funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation and powered by BanQu, looks to digitise transactions for waster pickers and buy-back centres. Picture: PET Recycling Company NPC

Project Up by PETCO, funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation and powered by BanQu, looks to digitise transactions for waster pickers and buy-back centres. Picture: PET Recycling Company NPC

Published Jun 5, 2022

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Cape Town - A pilot initiative of the PET Recycling Company (Petco), Project Up, is using blockchain technology to integrate the informal recycling sector with the formal recycling sector by digitising and recording transactions between waste pickers and buy-back centres.

The pilot project was funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation and powered by BanQu. Through the use of the blockchain, they hoped to boost recycling efforts and build a national digital record of recyclables which were collected by waste pickers and sold to buy-back centres, which in turn sold the materials to recycling companies.

The project has already yielded positive results over the past year by helping grass-roots businesses integrate into the formalised waste recycling sector while growing the volume of recyclable plastics and other materials purchased by the buy-back centres.

Petco chief executive Cheri Scholtz said: “Because informal waste collection was based largely on cash transactions, the majority of the estimated 52 000 waste pickers in South Africa typically had no record of their earnings and so remained largely unbanked and unable to access the kinds of services available to those who were self-employed or had a record of employment in the formal sector.”

Scholtz said the benefit of this technology was that both waste pickers and buy-back centres were now able to build up permanent digital financial records, which could be used to access credit to grow their businesses.

Sakhikamva Projects owner Zolani Fololo said some waste pickers they did business with at their buy-back centre were hesitant initially, but they became excited about it after receiving SMS receipts for their transactions which helped to build a permanent digital record of their earnings.

BanQu vice-president Mark Geoghegan added that the BanQu system was rolled out to more than 60 buy-back centres across South Africa with more than 4 500 collectors/waste pickers registered. This enabled them to continue the journey of building up their economic profile on the blockchain.

PETCO vice-chair and Coca-Cola Africa sustainability director David Drew said: “By looking at this data, we cannot only begin to understand the market better but also use these insights to support and grow the informal waste economy.”

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