Software developer Benjoe Vidal hopes to convert litterbugs into Earth warriors with a proudly Filipino-made trash-to-cash app that makes it as easy as scanning a GCash QR code.
TrashCash was born out of the 28-year-old Vidal's frustration with empty soda bottles and candy wrappers that spoil the beauty of the hiking trails that he frequents. The growing community has 23,000 users in Tondo, Manila and is also present in Banlic, Laguna.
With the help of artificial intelligence, app users just need to scan plastic garbage with their smartphones and it will identify the type of trash and display its corresponding peso value.
"Maraming tao na gusto mag-contribute lalo na at may incentives na rewards," Vidal told reportr.
"Mahilig din kasi ako mag-travel and nakakalungkot at nakakainis kasi yung ang ganda ng mga pinupuntahan mo tapos makikita mo may nag-iwan ng balot ng candy o bote ng softdrinks. Ayun talaga yung inspiration ko sa pag-develop nung app," he said.
In 2019, a study by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives or GAIA showed that the Philippines is among the world's "worst offenders" of marine plastic pollution. Filipinos 'usage of single-use plastic was estimated at about 60 billion sachets a year.
While TrashCash was initially created in late 2019 for a start-up competition, it was only launched on Google Playstore in February this year since bug fixes and development were slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Since our launch, we have been receiving many inquiries for partnerships from barangays and LGUs (local government units) so masaya na marami pala ang gusto tumulong," Vidal said.
How it works
The TrashCash app is part of an upcycling ecosystem that works with the help of partner barangays and an upcycling plant.
App users need to collect and segregate their garbage, scan it to see its value, and submit it to the nearest drop-off point. Once the value of the garbage is confirmed by personnel at the drop-off point, they will then credit the corresponding reward points which users could use to exchange for items at TrashCash partner stores or money that would be credited to users' digital wallets.
A partner non-profit organization of TrashCash will then collect the trash and transport it to an eco-hub where the garbage will be sorted. Lastly, the trash will be brought to an upcycling plant. What's next?
For now, TrashCash is only available in the Google Playstore but Vidal said he and his team are working on making the app available for iOS users too. Plans to expand trash collection to other waste materials aside from plastic are also in the works.
"We're planning to collect din yung ibang materials like papers and cans pero for now we're focusing muna on plastic kasi yun yung parang pinakamalalang problema," he said.
The TrashCash team according to Vidal is already in talks with different local government units for partnerships. They are also open to collaborating with establishments such as malls even online shopping platforms that use enormous amounts of plastic, he said.
More than engaging Filipinos to dispose of their garbage properly with incentives, Vidal said he hopes the app could help educate people on the environmental hazards of littering.
"It's not about rewards or the incentives but we would like to educate the people of the effects of their trash dahil babalik din naman sa atin yan," Vidal said.