It started out as a simple idea that, on paper at least, seemed easy to execute: put recyclables into special bins to reduce landfill.
But humans being human has turned recycling into a massive problem, with contamination – ie. rubbish – being put in recycling bins, which leads to the entire contents ending up in landfill.
So Sydney entrepreneur Martin Collings, founder and CEO of Charopy, set out to change that, developing smart bin technology to retrofit existing out-of-home bins and ensure everyone does the right thing.
“Way too much of what people think is being recycled actually ends up going into landfill,” he said.
“Charopy bins are locked by default and only open for eligible items, so the risk of bin contamination from ineligible items is eliminated. This ensures significantly higher recovery and reuse of recycling matter.”
The target market for tech solution spans schools, stadiums, councils, shopping centres and major companies.
“We estimate there are well over 10,000 public area recycling bins in Australia currently achieving sub optimal recycling outcomes; much of the contents of these bins ends up in landfill due to contamination,” Collings said.
“Unfortunately signage and education are simply not delivering a sufficient change in behaviour to fix the problem. Implementing our technology has seen some clients go from zero percent to near 100% of bin contents being recycled, just because the contents were free from contamination and only eligible recyclable items could be deposited.”
He calls them “sham recycling bins” – and has set the goal of cutting the number that head to landfill in half.
“The problem of recycling bin contents going to landfill is a problem that must be solved – the status quo is no longer acceptable,” he said.
Charopy launched in 2020, and already its client list Coca Cola, Fujitsu, Property NSW, AMP Capital, Vicinity Centres, Brookfield, Scentre Group (Westfield) and the NSW Department of Education. The startup has also made initial sales to New Zealand and the US.
Having initially bootstrapped with just $10,000, and the revenue, Collings has just taken on his first external funding from Melbourne investor Chad Holland, who had a successful exit from his company Premier Waste Management, and now runs Gurru, a waste-focused technology business.
“Having someone with Chad Holland’s industry knowledge and business building experience invest in Charopy is a real vote of confidence in the technology and in the team,” Collings said.
“We had a number of investors express interest in this business even though we weren’t conducting a formal capital raising process, but one thing that helped get this across the line in the end was the structure involving a combination of new shares issued plus shareholders currently working in the business were able to partially sell down into the deal.”
The Charopy founder said most corporates have been paying $2,500 per bin for his tech solution. He’s planning to use the funds to finish re-engineering the hardware and back-end services to reduce costs and get the price below $1,000.
“On top of that we have a suite of SaaS like options and we will be splitting those out so customers only pay for some or none of these IoT data services as they see fit,” he said.
“If we can eliminate half the sham recycling bins in Australia with our technology then shareholders will be amply rewarded, but the primary objective is improving recycling outcomes and if we have to work even harder at cutting costs to reduce prices further then we now have the financial backing to put all the options on the table.”