Blockchain meets recycling

May 10, 2018

Ayoola Brimmo

The big question we get these days, even from “blockchain experts”, is; “what does the blockchain technology have to do with recycling”. Well, to make sense out of the answer to that question, it is important to first understand the nitty-gritty of our recycling model.

Basically, Cycled is in the business of trading recyclables. The company collects recyclables from communities, and this is done in clean and sorted conditions in order to increase our earnings i.e. if we received dirty and unsorted waste, we earn less. As such, for helping us gain more, community members deserve a piece of the pie!

We figured that the best quality recyclables can be obtained directly from the first users – with a door-to-door collection system. So that brings about a tricky collection component to the model. If we chose to pick up from everyone ourselves, in a single city, we would have required about 2000 vehicles to start-off. But as Uber revealed, we don’t need to own a single vehicle even if we were in the transportation business. Actually, the Uber revelation revealed that you shouldn’t own any vehicle to grow fast since crowd-sourcing is a more effective growth mechanism. Moreover, for a truly circular economy, this is the model all businesses should strive for since this ends up elevating others in the industry. In our context, every city already has commercial collectors or people who care enough about the environment to collect recyclables from their community. So there is no need to recreate the wheel; an expensive one for that matter. However, nothing comes for free; the collectors also deserve a piece of the pie! A huge piece actually!

This scenario is kind of a complex model of the Dr. Strange transaction described in my previous blog post. In this case, we have 3 different classes of strangers trying to make transactions; Cycled, collectors and disposers. And everyone has to get paid somehow.

Even if we decided to neglect the huge bank charges, and make people wait for the typical long period that bank transfers entails, the bank does not offer a service that validates that the materials we are paying for is actually being received. How about a centralized system for the validation? Since we will be governing such a system, it doesn’t change much for us from a financial perspective but how about the collectors and disposers? How do they go about ensuring that, a “10%” piece of the pie is not changed to “1.0%” without any real notice? Or how would anyone be able to tell if one of the collectors is only delivering half of what was collected to cheat the system. With a crowd sourced blockchain-based monitor of all these processes, you don’t have to wake up in the morning and automatically turn ON your “trust switch” for complete strangers; you will be able to see for yourself.

In a nutshell, the blockchain is arguably the most advanced means of performing financial transactions, and we are in a business that demands a whole lot of these transactions. So the question really is; why are we expected to settle for less?

Now that’s just the financial aspect of the whole system. A quick insight: financial incentives have been previously used to encourage recycling before, and while they have proven to be relatively effective (than a situation with no incentives at all), no country has been able to use this mechanism to achieve recycling rates higher that 60%. So to reach greater heights, the Cycled concept also substantiate the incentive mechanisms with social rewards for frequent participants. This would come in a rating system synonymous to how the “credit score” rates your financial standing and “number of followers” rates your popularity on social media. And this will not be limited to individuals, as companies will also be rated.

This now bring into question the authenticity of the rating system? How can you trust a guy with thousands of followers is really popular when he could have bought most of the followers? Well, if social media platforms where on the blockchain, feigning large followership would have been easily detectable by just pulling up the person’s publicly held record — a record that even the holding company cannot manipulate or hide. In a similar fashion, with our blockchain based rating system, big companies cannot buy their way to a good Sustainability rating, and when everyone realizes this, we will all focus on actually being sustainable instead of trying to feign it.

So in essence, Cycled’s blockchain implementation ensures that we avoid the slow and rather expensive conventional banking process in dispensing financial incentives, and that all transactions are transparent. In essence, the system recruits everyone, and not just Cycled, as a Sustainability Police. So get ready -- your badges will be mailed soon.