In 2017 Misha and I, as UWC Dilijan graduates, joined forces around an idea of improving Armenia’s environmental situation. Haven fallen in love with Armenia, its people and its nature, we were heartbroken to see the state of waste management and the impact of plastic on the environment and the wellbeing of Armenians.
During our first three years following our graduation, Misha and I worked tirelessly to try and solve these issues. We founded the Re-Apaga Charity Foundation in Dilijan and even opened a recycling factory with the help of other environmentally conscious people. Thanks to this initiative, we recycled approximately 6 tons of aluminium, electronic and plastic waste. We involved and educated around 60,000 locals about the environment. However, the core problem quickly became apparent:
‘it’s not that there are no recycling factories, but rather that there are no logistics in place to funnel the waste to the recyclers.’
Transportation costs exceeds the value of recyclable waste with way too much due to its very low value (21 Cent per Kg of Plastic). Subsequently to realizing this, we came up with an initiative to solve this issue and called it the ‘Apaga Community’.
Apaga is a platform, bringing together like-minded people who understand the need for a solution, and believe in Apaga’s mission of becoming a transparent, social enterprise, building towards a true circular economy. By July 2019, over 700 individuals and 30 organizations had joined the #GreenRevolution.
The idea was to organise paid waste pickups from households and organisations, trying at least to cover part of the operational expenses. Though the subscribers were rewarded for their eco-behaviour via our retail partners’ coupons, we knew that the concept would not appeal to everyone, especially in a developing post-soviet country. Counting on those who take responsibility for their generated waste and are willing to financially contribute to solving the problem, would not become scalable or sustainable.
Following much success from this pilot project, including having won numerous start-up awards, grants, and investments from various sources, our team decided to move towards a completely free, yet sustainable way of solving the recycling problem once and for all.
In collaboration with Locator, a powerful Yerevan-based IT company, our team started working on a Smart Recycling Container that would revolutionise recycling. We named it ‘SmartApaga’.
The SmartApaga Container enable citizens to recycle their plastic waste for free and still get rewarded for their eco-responsible behaviour. Registering their data in our app, they get a unique QR code. By scanning it at the container, they can dispose of their plastic and accumulate points (ApagaCoins) on their profile. These points can then be redeemed as gifts, discounts, and other goodies from partner organisations.
Partnering companies who see value in a clean environment and want to encourage recycling citizens, get the opportunity to advertise their products/services on a rapidly growing platform and attract high quality customers.
With this win-win solution we aim to nudge our country towards not just sustainability, but a scalable cutting-edge sustainability, starting by solving the main poison for our environment; plastic. And the most amazing thing about all of that? We are not alone in our efforts!
During our participation in The European Social Innovation Competition, we met so many amazing people trying to do the exact same thing: saving our planet from the ‘plastic epidemic’. Not only have we made new friends but also learned so much about the problem and the ways to work together to create actual change. Truly, plastic pollution is not just the problem for some specific countries, but a problem for the whole world. Now, we can all work together to tackle the problem, and there are so many great Ideas within the participants on the European Social Innovation Award!