How are startups, SMEs and MNCs solving WASTE in Asia?

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How are startups, SMEs and MNCs solving WASTE in Asia?

“If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world”

said Roelof Westerbeek, when we caught up with him recently. Roelof has spent most of his career in the engineering industry, especially in plastics, and is very well aware of the impact of waste.

I first met Roelof at the Responsible Business Forum in November 2015 in Singapore. He had one of the most compelling keynote speeches at the forum, the energy that he brought to the room through his knowledge and passion on tackling food waste was palpable. So much so, that his speech and some of the following discussions I had with Roelof inspired us at Gone Adventurin’ to focus the first of our monthly Insight Reports series on the topic of waste.

Waste is becoming a huge problem.

Waste in the form of food, agricultural, plastic, electronic or paper waste has a significant impact on sustainable development. Waste directly or indirectly contributes to the success of 8 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Recent government regulations have made waste in its various forms a top priority for most companies. A case in point here is India where the national government has drafted new rules making producers of consumer goods responsible for the recycling of post-consumer waste.

CNN plastic waste. Credit- CNN

Image Credit: CNN

A recent CNN report based on data from 2010 showed that 8 of the 10 top countries which mismanage their plastic waste are in Asia, with 5 of these 8 from Southeast Asia. About 8 million metric tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans each year and in a matter of years there will soon be more plastic in the oceans than fish. Food waste also directly contributes environmental degradation and climate change.

Food Waste releases 4.4 giga tonnes of CO2 each year! Click to Tweet


Ground-up solutions

While the statistics are alarming, it is not surprising that plenty of new technology and ideas are already at hand to tackle waste challenges, especially in Asia.

And you know what? They might just save the planet.

India-based startup Encashea was founded in August 2015 to tackle the problem of household waste in India’s cities with their burgeoning middle class. While food delivery apps in these cities continue their fast growth, behind the scenes garbage dumps near housing areas are overflowing with food delivery boxes. Encashea was launched in Bengaluru, a city in Southern India which has a population of 10 million people and generates around 5,000 tonnes of garbage every day. The startup collects scrap waste for cash in select areas of the city and lists prices for scrap on its website.

encashea  encashea 2

Image Credit: EnCashea

Get the Encashea app on Google Play!

But what about places like Indonesia?

Well, when it comes to fish and shrimp farming, Indonesia is huge. The archipelago is not only home to millions of fish farms but the market size in the Southeast Asian country alone is US$5.4 billion.

However long-term survival of these farms depends on how well food waste is managed as overfeeding of fish is one of the largest challenges in commercial aquaculture. eFishery, an Internet of Things (IoT) startup based in Bandung, is a smart fish feeder manufacturer that tackles this problem.

“Using eFishery, fish and shrimp farmers can schedule feed times and monitor feeding performances right from their mobile devices. Being able to avoid overfeeding their fish can actually reduce costs for farmers by 21 per cent.”

The world throws away an estimated $1 trillion worth of food each year. Click to Tweet


That represents 1% of global GDP. Food waste from restaurants, hotels and other establishments contributes greatly to these statistics. UK-based startup Winnow provides smart meters that helps kitchens cut food waste by automatically measuring what’s put in the bin. Winnow has already been deployed in over 200 kitchens and cuts an average of 50% from food waste bills, or $3m a year.

Winnow Solutions. Credit- Winnow Solutions

Image Credit: Winnow Solutions

Startups aside, large corporates are also beginning to take steps to drive collaborations in developing markets to tackle waste. Microsoft Vietnam and the city of Da Nang have recently agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a business startup support program and some of these startups include businesses working to tackle municipal waste.

IKEA, one of the partners in Smart Living Challenge Jakarta, recently called for ideas which are very simple and could improve people’s everyday life. BagiMak, a group that came with the idea of developing a food sharing application with the possibility to donate or share left-overs was awarded the first prize from the jury.

Large corporates still have a long way to go to tackle waste

A recent report launched by non-profit group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) encourages fast moving consumer good companies and their financiers to offer more sustainable products.

All of the 26 firms featured in the report had a market capitalisation of at least US$1 billion each and were picked from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

WWF - Report. Credit- WWF

<b”>Image Credit: WWF

As the WWF report suggests;

“Companies that are not reducing and reusing materials, not educating their consumers about recycling and not working with other stakeholders to boost recycling infrastructure will end up bearing higher packaging costs in the long run.”


But waste is a huge business opportunity

The issue of waste particularly offers significant business opportunities, especially in Asia. On average 85% of plastic waste doesn’t get recycled here in Asia , and 42% of the fruit and vegetables and 20% of the grain produced in the region gets lost or wasted and at least 50% of household waste ends up in landfill. As Roelof suggests;

“there is a lot of value for companies that play at the forefront of bringing new technologies and new business models to address sustainability issues.”

3 Important Steps to Tackle Waste in Your Company

1. Involve your staff

Implementing solutions from the top down might get things done initially, but unless there is passion and commitment from your team, you will never get the sustainable results you need. Work across all your business silo’s (Talent and HR, Corporate Comms, CSR, Marketing etc.) to facilitate employee experiences to make sure everyone understands the issue and is inspired to make a difference.

How can we help? Join or send your team on a 3-day IMPACT ADVENTURE in any Asian country so your employees can meet inspiring startups, social enterprises, NGOs and local change-makers tackling waste!

2. Share your stories

Already doing incredible work? Then amplify your impact throughout your business unit and global teams through authentic and engaging storytelling! Using something as simple as your smartphone, record your success and your failures to get support and strengthen your internal networks. Most importantly, exchange ideas!

If you want to go a step further, why not work with your marketing or corporate communication teams to post publicly through your social media channels to source solutions from your audience?

How can we help? Join or send your team on a 3-day IMPACT ADVENTURE in any Asian country so your employees can meet inspiring startups, social enterprises, NGOs and local change-makers tackling waste!

3. Update your strategy

The most important part of solving any social or environmental issue is to integrate it into the core of your business strategy. Explore new supply chains and form new partnerships which benefits all your stakeholders AND your shareholders. You can find a strategy to influence your consumers behaviour, or simply innovate the design of your product. Look at the materials you use and see if you can create a more transparent and effective supply chain. At the end of the day, a powerful business strategy which integrates a bigger purpose will far out-perform a strategy which just targets profit alone.

How can we help? We can work with you to refine your business strategy to engage employees, influence consumers and innovate for the future by tackling waste challenges across Asia. First, why not get our team to come and do an interactive workshop & in-depth presentation to introduce your team to detailed insights and stories behind this report? Reach out to us at Gone Adventurin’ to adapt, apply and profit by putting sustainable development at the core of your business.

This article is part of our monthly series of insights to help business leaders discover business value through a social and environmental purpose.

Download our latest 14-page report on WASTE in Asia

View our 2-min visual on WASTE in Asia

Ashwin Subramaniam

Firmly believe that companies can unlock great business opportunities in tackling social and environmental challenges in their communities. Check out our story at or if you'd like to get in touch for a coffee or chat, email me at We'd love to hear your story.

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