Author’s Blurb: Back in primary school, we had a recycling programme where students were encouraged to bring old newspapers from home and stack them into 1 metre towers. It was a fun way to educate us kids on the values of recycling.
Trash4Cash has one hope: that there will one day be no more waste on Earth. But the reality is, recycling rates in Malaysia are still very low, and the business’s Managing Director, Redza, is aware of this.
That’s why he’s trying to make recycling easier and more accessible through Trash4Cash’s app and Pinky Hub fleets. Upon request, the large pink trucks go door-to-door to collect recyclables from households and businesses alike. Some of their notable clients even include Petron’s HQ and MITI.
“We bring along a weighing scale to make it fun, our clients can try to guess its weight. At the same time, it builds the trust between us and the customers. As a bonus, customers earn real money as an attribute that helps us preserve the environment,” said Redza.
Customers are paid based on the weight of their recyclables according to its current market price. Redza told Vulcan Post that the average earnt per house is RM18 from a minimum 50kg of recyclables.
An Ingrained Way Of Life
Recyclable collection services are familiar concepts in the country. Who could forget the earworms that mattress and old newspaper collection trucks played when driving around neighbourhoods?
Senior citizens riding their bicycles around town to collect aluminium tins and glass bottles were aplenty too. More than inspired by them, Redza actually adores and respects them as a waste collector himself.
He saw a significant decrease in these services as of late, becoming nostalgic of a time where recycling was second nature to Malaysians.
Raised by a dad who’s a waste collector as well, recycling and preserving the environment were ingrained into Redza’s childhood.
Reminiscing, he said, “My siblings and I were raised or you can say, ‘brainwashed’ to be environmentally friendly since we were kids. My dad’s very strict when it comes to nature and the environment, yet very calm and gentle at the same time.”
Redza grew up to be a supervisor in a waste management company. Part of his job was to follow behind rubbish compactor trucks to ensure that waste is disposed of properly. This was to mitigate any complaints from residents if the trash is disposed of in a careless manner.
Once the waste was transported from bins to the truck, he noticed workers would sort them, looking for any plastic bottles or cans, which was plenty. The workers would recycle them every day, earning themselves some extra income.
“But not for long,” Redza told Vulcan Post. “Sortation at source was banned by the authorities because it was time-consuming.”
“Can’t blame them, because as a supervisor, I admit that it slows down the operational work. Even though I love what the workers were doing, there’s nothing much I can do myself at the time being.”
That was the tipping point that led him to start Trash4Cash. He wanted to find a way where waste could easily be collected for recycling and reused to manufacture new materials.
Monetising After Giving Money Away
Since Trash4Cash was launched in March 2018, Redza reported that awareness from the public is pretty decent thanks to word of mouth.
“We collect from 5 to 20 houses per day depending on the truck’s capacity, and this is for one recycle truck. The collection average per week for 1 truck is about 60 houses,” he said.
Customers are paid through the Trash4Cash app, where they have a clear view of how much they’ve earnt from the recycling service. They can also use the app to request for collections and check each item’s rates.
But, operating a fleet of heavy vehicles is not cheap. Customers absorb 0 costs as Trash4Cash is a free service to them. Furthermore, customers are even paid for their recyclables—which means all demanding expenses fall solely on the business.
Redza also explained that every fleet (Pinky Hub) has 15 workers comprising waste collectors and administrative staff. Adding up petrol costs, the average operational outlay per month for a single Pinky Hub amounts to RM60,000.
“We started overcoming the cost by looking for manufacturers that use recyclable waste as their raw materials for production,” he clarified when asked about the business’s funding. “We learn how to sort and pack and adapt to their recyclable raw materials demand.”
Thus, on top of collecting recyclables every other day, Trash4Cash is also a material feeder to industries that need recyclables for their production.
The fleets are currently operational in Klang Valley, Kedah, and Perlis. Items collected range from plastic, old newspapers, and clothing to construction and demolition debris, green (composting) and food waste.
“We are doing our best to turn as much waste into something that has value and fits our vision, Trash is Treasure. We want to return every waste to its place in order to increase the lifespan of the recyclables,” concluded Redza hopefully.
Bottom Line: It’s more important than ever now that households recycle their plastic waste in a proper manner, due to the rise in plastic food packaging from our delivery orders. It may not reverse Malaysia’s big waste issues overnight, but Trash4Cash and other eco-friendly startups are playing an important role in first raising awareness.
- You can learn more about Trash4Cash here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: The team at Trash4Cash