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A system that encourages families in Nepal to separate their waste

Unsorted waste is a significant problem in Kathmandu, Nepal. Every day tonnes of unsorted trash are thrown away. This means that about 60% of recyclable material ends up in landfills or worse: the river, dumpsites or fires in the street. The current garbage chaos causes environmental damage, unhealthy jobs, and huge wastage of valuable materials.

As part of a case study, we developed a system that helps families to separate their waste, and at the same time brings new business opportunities to the local waste companies.


In order to more clearly understand the garbage problem in Kathmandu, we literally followed the journey trash makes. With many interviews and customer journeys we were able to plot the paths of Kathmandu's garbage ecosystem. Three-hundred tonnes of garbage is produced daily, mainly by households.

Families pay a monthly fee to get rid of their waste. Plastic, organic and general waste is picked up at home by both private companies and governmental organizations.We developed a number of interesting insights when we presented our research to households and waste management companies for brainstorming sessions. These are the main findings:

  • households aren’t satisfied with collection services because they come at random times and people need to stay at home for them. 

  • Waste management companies can’t find an effective way of encouraging households to separate their waste at home. 

  • Both households and waste managers watch in dismay at the sheer quantity and illegal dumping of Kathmandu's garbage.


A low cost and easy to integrate system that rewards families by separating their trash and brings new business opportunities to the local waste companies


the holy crap system

Holy Crap is a new, incentive-based system that can be implemented in existing waste structures in Kathmandu. The system encourages households to separate their waste at home.
Each family connected to this service will be provided each month with a set quantity of coloured waste bags that make separating easy and fun. Blue bags for plastic, Orange bags for general waste and green bags for Organic.  

Waste bins with
NFC technology

Besides the coloured waste bags each household will be provided with a small waste bin which they can place outside. Each bin comes with an NFC (near field communication) tag which contains its own unique customer identification number. Once the coloured waste bags inside the house are full they can easily be stored in the bins, which can then be placed at the side of the road ready for collection.


credits for waste seperation

When the garbage collector comes to pick up the trash he scans the NFC tag on the bin with a simple smartphone or NFC scanner. Immediately the device displays the personal identification number.
For each properly separated bag the household earns credits. Each bag of organic waste earns 25 credits, plastic 100 credits and general waste 10 credits. The more and better the family separates their trash, the more credits they can earn. 

Exchange of credits

On the Holy Crap website, households can easily login with their personal identification number. Here they can see exactly what happens to their waste, how much they have recycled to date, how their neighborhood is doing in comparison to other neighborhoods, learn more about the importance of separating trash and how their own separation has contributed to a healthier local environment.

On top of this, households can exchange their well-earned credits for rewards such as phone credit, organic compost, products or discount at selected shops.  



Once all of the trash is collected it goes to the sorting centre. Because all of the waste is already separated, it’s easy to pick out the recyclable material. Organic waste can be sold to companies that produce bio-gas, fertiliser or even animal food. Plastics can be sold to factories that make new plastic products, while general waste can be refined further to be recycled into new textiles, metals, glass and papers.  


Holy Crap is a case study and still in progress. We are actively looking for partners to collaborate in setting up the first pilot programmes.

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