Project Everest

Work Update

Post your ideas to help us in ideation stage!

Tim Allen
Tim Allen | Jan 17, 2017 | in Knowledge Base

Hello Project Everest community!

We are currently in the ideate stage of our project so we would love to hear as many ideas as possible from all types of people. 

Our final definition of the problem facing our project is:

The dependence on plastic products due to their convenience and affordability as well as a lack of awareness of the negative consequences of their use has led to adverse impacts on Cambodia’s environment, economy and public health. These impacts are compounded by the lack of adequate collection services and infrastructure leading to helplessness. How might we devise a product or service to repurpose plastic waste or alleviate the over-dependence on plastic products in Cambodia.

Below is a brief summary of some of the ideas we have been looking into and what our current thoughts are on their feasibility. The attached file is a more detailed document of our ideas so far including types of plastic used etc. We will be posting updates on these current ideas and more ideas we come up with in the coming days.

If you have an idea or criticism that you would like to share with us please comment below. Strange ideas are good!

We look forward to hearing from everyone.

P4P January Team

Tagged users
edited on 18th January 2017, 03:01 by Tim Allen

Mike Young Jan 17, 2017

Hi Tim,

All of these ideas would have huge social impacts but I feel some would not be financially viable. From my personal viewpoint, business models which rely on governments would not succeed for us. Maybe in 10 years or so, but not now. As such, I feel the pavement and asphalt ideas would not be viable as they would rely on government, unless the processes are somehow are cheaper than standard materials used in Cambodia.

With the cinder blocks and tiles, its again a question of financial viability-if bricks are 6 cents each in Cambodia, will we be able to make a profit margin?

Pyrolysis is a definite possibility and could be a very efficient way of getting rid of all the plastic waste Siem Reap has. Whilst there could be some opposition within Siem Reap from other NGO's, maybe a close analysis of the business models adopted by other nations using plastic pyrolysis (like Thailand) should be undertaken. The same goes for Plastic Housing, which could be a potentially profitable business model.

Overall I think that Pyrolysis and the Plastic Housing could be viable paths to go down, as in my opinion, they're the only two which I see as profitable in the current environment. Things like biodegradable bags may become more viable in the future (plastic bag tax passing), but for now, I believe the political situation is too unstable.

In saying all this, I know lots would've changed since December so I may be wrong on some points!

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Tim Allen Jan 17, 2017

Thanks for the reply Mike!

I agree that the asphalt and pavement ideas are in risky territory given that they rely on Government cooperation and contracts which we have found to be very difficult to do in Cambodia. Also with the tiles I agree that it will be difficult to be competitive with a product that is already so cheap.

I think the only cheap product we could compete with would be plastic bags with biodegradable alternatives but only with the successful implementation of the plastic bag tax. We are meeting with Claudia from ACRA tomorrow who is pushing for the tax with the Ministry of Environment so hopefully we will have a better idea if this is a possibility tomorrow.

The best thing about pyrolysis is that fuel and energy in Cambodia is already so expensive making it a more attractive market to enter. Marty (another trekker in our team) has bought the materials for a pyrolysis prototype today so we will see how that goes in the coming days and keep everyone updated.

Exciting times ahead!

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Ben Grossberg Jan 18, 2017

Awesome to hear that Marty is working on a pyrolysis prototype! Since finding out about pyrolysis technology i've felt like that could be the best option of going with. Pretty #moonshot but at the same time it could have huge benefits and is also easily scalable. Plenty of good examples in Europe that it could be based off I believe.

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Tim Allen Jan 18, 2017

Yeah we've found that there are some pretty substantial initial costs involved with large scalable pyrolysis technology. We're still pretty optimistic about it at the moment. Still need to do a lot more research on its feasibility but doing the experiment today will definitely be insightful!

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Ben Grossberg Jan 18, 2017

With the asphalt road idea, would it be possible to do that without the support of the government? What if villages would could collectively pay for construction of a asphalt road to their area and completely sidestep dealing with the government?

Probably not because roads are traditionally government build and maintained but it could be worth looking into.

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Marty Brown Jan 23, 2017

Hi Mike, Im part of the January Cambodia P4P team.
working alongside the government in terms of using their resources and funding has proven to be pretty much impossible. However they do not stop you doing anything in the way of business. It's kind of like; they wont stop you doing anything but they don't help you either. There have been a few instances where they will do anything you like if you offer some money. if there is financial incentive for them they suddenly become very cooperative. for the road improvement idea, If we find private road developers or build the machinery ourselves we may be able to build the roads with the payments of private businesses, private home owners (not likely) and NGOS. we can build on this idea without the government in the picture at all.

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Mike Young Jan 23, 2017

Hi Marty,

That sounds great! Initially I was feeling the that building roads would be a great solution since it has 2 facets of social impact: the recycling of plastic, and the creation of roads, which is massive since good roads would open up so many opportunities to Cambodians. It would assist companies like GAEA through making rural rubbish collection financially feasible and that would partially help solve the issues of burning rubbish in rural areas. I think though the biggest issue would be turning a profit- I feel there are other solutions available and much easier to utilise which would turn higher levels of profits. Despite this, maybe try going down the avenue of getting funding from other international governments/organisations? There are a lot of schools and restorations around Cambodia funded by the governments of other countries.

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Ben Grossberg Jan 18, 2017

Nice work Tim and team!

Not sure if you guys have come across this yourselves but on the last few days of Project in December I found a report report created by the World Economic Forum titled ‘The New Plastics Economy'. (As i'm writing this i've just realised that they've released a 2017 version too with great statistics).

This report talks about creating a new era in the plastic industry, specifically plastic packaging by using the principles of the circular economy as a base. The vision of the New Plastics Economy is that plastics never become waste, rather they re-enter the economy as valuble technical or biological nutrients.

To do this globally, a collective and direct approach is required from industry, government and NGO’s.

Whilst it doesn’t provide one single solution, it mentions a few technologies which vary from being in their R&D phase to being mature technology. The major producers and distributers of plastic are on board with the project such as Amcor, Mars, P&G, Coca Cola and Unilever.

I can see many parallels between what Project Everest is trying to do and the theme of this report.I think it would be useful in the ideation phase to think about how we can make a solution that uses circular economy principles, in order to make a closed loop plastic system.

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Marty Brown Jan 23, 2017


So basically I took a paint can and some universal metal pipe, plastic tube and a plastic bottle and mate a very basic experimental pyrolysis machine.
we ran the experiment twice using polyethylene and polypropylene.
with the polypropylene (bottle caps and takeaway drink containers) we were able to get a thin film of oil forming on top of the water.

What we gained from the experiment: making a pyrolysis machine large enough to enter a market for the product is very difficult with our knowledge and expertise. The reaction requires a lot of energy (heat). To create a diesel that is a high enough grade the raw oil needs to go through a fractional distillation process which gets very complicated as the condensing has a really specific heat, especially at large volumes. The machine would have to be efficient so that the large amounts of non-renewable energy required to heat the furnace does not go to waste.

There are a lot of successes with pyrolysis in other countries, including Thailand. If we were to go down this path, unless a top notch metal worker is within us and is able to find the resources in Cambodia (was difficult without translators), we would need to purchase a machine. The machines are awesome but your looking at around $30,000 US at the least. Thats for a new one, didn't look at second hand machines. I don't know how deep Project Everest pockets are but Im assuming until we find a definite market I don't think they will provide that kind of capital. Theres a lot more issues about pyrolysis that are discussed in our handover document but these are a few of my thoughts on the current feasibility of Pyrolysis.

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William Ashford Jan 26, 2017

I think when analysing the viability of these ideas, you need to think about the market alternatives.

In an ill-informed market, the value consumers place on the environmental sustainability of a product is likely low. So in order for consumers to part with their hard earned, they're going to need to see some insane increase in the quality of goods or a notable drop in their price.

Given pyrolysis isn't a viable prospect (given the capital outlay and cost efficiencies of producing the fuel) I really see the only viable prospect here relating to the sale of the machines or...

Using the machines to make 3d printing filament and combining that with plans for an open source 3d printer to set up a custom repairs shop. Note this may be a level of technical sophistication beyond the means of both trekkers and locals.

It'd require a personal computer (which doesn't have to be more than around A$100), and a small object scanner (which is now available as an app on android phones and someone who knows how to use and maintain all of the above.

I don't know if this will work in all of our operating countries but this sounds like a product suite that could, in part, be sold to the guys who run the printing and scanning shops.

Frankly, the other ideas won't be viable as the competition is likely going to be so much cheaper.

Anyway, I'll post this as a separate "idea" in this challenge as the concept behind the crowdicity platform is for users to post their ideas for the ideate stage into each challenge.

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Amber Johnston Jun 20, 2017

Status changed to Solved

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William Ashford Jun 30, 2017

Status changed to Previous Work

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Zena Lowe 8 months ago

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Bonnie Perry 2 months ago

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