Holy Crap

Holy Crap

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, dump sites or fires in the street. This affects the environment and the people who live nearby, and also brings a high risk of disease.

The current garbage chaos causes environmental damage, unhealthy jobs, and huge wastage of valuable materials. In collaboration with fellow designer Pim van Baarsen, whose graduation project this was, 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.

RESEARCH Waste management
In order to more clearly understand the garbage problem in Kathmandu, we literally followed the journey trash makes. 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 organisations.

When the garbage is collected it goes to the sorting centre, where people attempt to filter out recyclable material. However, because the garbage is mixed it is almost impossible to sort it properly. We developed a number of interesting insights when we presented our own 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. Sometimes the only alternative is to throw it on the street or into the river. Waste management companies can’t find an effective way of encouraging households to separate their waste at home. As a result they lose substantial income from wasted valuable recyclable material.

What we designed

A insentive based system that encourages families to recycle and separate their waste at home, without disrupting Kathmandu’s existing small-scale local waste structures.


Each family connected to this service will be provided each month with a set quantity of colored waste bags that make separating easy and fun. Blue bags for plastic, Orange bags for general waste and green bags for Organic.  


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. 


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. 


On the Holy Crap website households can login with their personal identification number. Here they can see exactly what happens to their waste and how much they have recycled to date. 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 biogas, 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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