One of the big challenges faced by people who live on the street, and other vulnerable members of society, is giving assistance in ways that help them ease into a stable and sustainable lifestyle. There are no quick fixes or mass-produced solutions.
That is why it is heartening to see a business like Trashback, which buys and sells recyclable materials, treating its collectors as partners who are able to shape the way business develops. This mutually beneficial relationship has evolved over time to respond to the needs of the collectors.
People who want to earn small amounts of cash can bring materials to Trashback, which is able to handle many micro-transactions – something that other large recycling companies would struggle with.
Trashback uses its own computer software to keep track of collectors and their transactions. Collectors are able to choose between receiving instant cash, and having Trashback bank their money. Even though many of them don’t have the documents needed for opening a bank account, they can withdraw at an ATM machine. This flexibility allows collectors to meet their needs in their own ways.
Recording the transaction patterns of the collectors also enables Trashback to identify those who might be able to take on some responsibilities, and offer them the option of participation in the collector agent programme. This provides the business with a stronger field of reliable collectors, allows the collectors to be given gradually more responsibilities, and provides them with resources like trolleys to assist with collection.
When Trashback was approached about supplying some of the materials that go into Droog’s plans for Department of Design, Trashback was able to identify potential businesses that had needed materials, and send their agents out to collect them with instructions on how to handle the material so that it arrived in a condition suitable for re-use.
This ability to handle unusual customer requests allows the business to respond to new markets that insert the step of “creative re-use” into the conventional flow of materials through the economy. And that flow is one of the key ideas that has influenced how Department of Design is taking shape.