what we did








Optimizing Trash Collection

Helping Mexico harness their city's trash information

Back in December 2011, Mexico City’s government closed its main rubbish dump, Bordo Poniente, which was one of the world’s largest open-air landfills. By closing the landfill, the city intended to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and hoped to construct a biogas power plant that would convert methane gas into energy—a project that never got off the ground. After the closure, illegal dumping in the capital increased, and the city scrambled to find other landfills.  To further exacerbate the problem, in May 2019, a dispute between communities and municipal authorities in San Cristóbal de Las Casas ignited the waste problem. Citing broken campaign promises, residents blocked 15 of 24 garbage trucks and prevented them from operating for about 15 days.

But this challenge isn’t unique to Mexico, and countries across the world are bracing for huge increases in garbage and fewer ways to get rid of it in coming years. According to 2018 World Bank estimates, cities around the world generate about 2 billion tons of solid municipal waste each year. If nothing is done, that figure will grow to 3.4 billion tons by 2050, a 70% increase.

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"The team at Impact Gym are creative, quick to build prototypes and test"

Our approach

After speaking with trash truck drivers, municipalities, and learning everything we could about the collection of trash, our design team prototypes a hardware device and app that would measure the weight of trash bins and send notifications to the municipality. Then we arrived at an entirely new idea that analyzes data on consumer spending, population density, amount of trash bins, location of trash bins all to project trash collection routes, and the optimal times for collection for the municipality. After a slew of prototypes and very sticky run-ins with the trash that was thrown in empty lands, we focused on one element of the value chain which was the aggregation and separation of plastic waste.
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The Challenge

Plastic waste filling empty lands was not biodegradable and needed to be separated and sent to a remote recycling plant.

The Outcome

Impact Gym designed an uber like application that enables taxi drivers to aggregate plastic waste and get rewarded a flat rate for every trunk filled.

The Impact

As part of the next phase of the trash collection optimization app, Impact Gym and PlastiCab have teamed up with graduate students from Stanford Design School to further evolve the design and push it toward maximum impact.
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