Every day new startups are changing the way we go about every aspect of our lives. They’ve given us new ways to communicate (via Skype, WhatsApp or Facetime); travel (through services like GoGet, Uber and oBike); and pay for things (using Paypal and Afterpay). Deliveroo will bring whatever you want to eat directly to your door and Hello Fresh will take care of the meal planning and grocery shopping. This series looks at the growing number of sustainability-focused startups that are helping people tread lightly on the planet.
Eliska Bramborova’s family name means ‘from the family of the potato’ in her native Czech, so perhaps she was destined to create an app that helps people share the work of recycling food scraps within their communities. She and her software developer husband, Tomas, founded ShareWaste in 2016 after seeing how the bins in her apartment complex overflowed each week before collection.
‘I don’t see organic waste as waste – it’s just an unused resource’ she says about her inspiration to recycle her fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and used tea leaves so they wouldn’t have to go to landfill. Living in the densely-packed, inner-west of Sydney, they had no garden of their own for compost bins or worm farms. However, inspired by the community vibe of her own suburb she posted a notice in a community Facebook group to enquire whether someone would regularly accept her scraps.
The fact that she found a taker encouraged her to find a way to connect with other people within other communities. She used her own volunteer labour and her husband’s software development nouse to put together a website that allowed anyone, anywhere to register as either a host of a compost bin/worm farm or a donor of organic waste. They launched a complementary app in late 2017.
It’s a simple idea that goes way beyond the idea of just mapping out compost bins around a city. Each individual host can specify what kind of waste they accept for their garden, bin or animals and they connect with the donor to discuss arrangements for donations. ‘The point is that you get to meet someone who lives near you who is willing to take the extra step to do something good – to do something for the community and for the planet – just like you. You help them, and they turn your waste into a resource’ says Eliska.
The stories that have come to the couple about people connecting with neighbours and making new friends are what give Eliska and Tomas the energy to keep going with this initiative when they feel overstretched. ‘A lady in Perth recently wrote an instagram post about us saying – I haven’t met this lady in person, but today there was a carton of eggs from her on my front door.’ The pair had connected through ShareWaste.
The ShareWaste website now has around 2,500 registered users from all over Australia (and internationally) and a wider community of over 7000 following their journey on social media. Initially supported by a matching grant from the City of Sydney, Eliska and her husband feel ready for another surge of growth as they work out where to next for their idea. ‘We want to strengthen and help local communities become more vibrant and get to know each other’.