Project Everest

Work Update

Timor Plastics Interim Handover

Hana N
Hana N | Jan 19, 2017 | in Knowledge Base

 Handover Summary Plastic for Purpose

January 2017 

Team leader: Nicola Jones

Group Leader: Alex Piatek 


Corey Middleton

Doug Radford

Hana Najeeb

Joshua Thompson

Matilda Marriott

Rowena Yu

Thomas Churchin 



There exists waste management issues in Timor-Leste and Dili has been identified as an area with scope for the establishment of social business. As the first Plastic for Purpose team in Timor-Leste, the primary focus was to begin the Empathise stage of the Design Thinking Process. The empathising stage comprised of collecting relevant information via surveys and observation to understand the waste management situation in Timor-Leste. Through the surveying of local people and discussion with government, the UNDP and relevant businesses a comprehensive perspective has been established. As a team this data was interpreted in a subjective manner, which has uncovered strong trends that will likely prove useful in later stages of the project. For instance, it was discovered that many Timorese people dislike waste littered around their country, however, they continue to dispose of their waste in an unsustainable manner with some burning it out of convenience. Additionally, although there are a number of small scale recycling businesses there is little to no knowledge of them by residents, or understanding of what they do. On a positive note, the majority of Timorese people expressed interest and willingness to take further actions to help clean their environment and improve their current waste management system. Communities use the existing truck collection system to some degree of success. The way forward is to define the existing problem concretely and to then use the existing businesses and government to benefit the establishment of Project Everest’s enterprise in Dili. There is clear potential to operate in cooperation with the existing recycling businesses, the UNDP and government; the businesses are small scale and unprofitable while the UNDP and government are establishing segregation of waste with the intention that a private business take the opportunity to construct a profitable recycling organisation. This is your goal, good luck! 



The primary task for the initial stage of the project was to thoroughly empathise with the Timor-Leste community in order to gain a well-rounded understanding of the prospective consumer. This encompassed the Empathise stage of the Design Thinking Process. Empathising with the community is a vital step in being able to properly set up a sustainable business with plastics. Surveys, observations and photos were used to collect information about the Timorese society, as . The main objective with these was to determine the waste management situation in Timor-Leste and their attitude towards the recycling of plastics. Throughout the first two weeks, regions which included the affluent, poor, inner city and outer suburb areas were identified. The demographic consisted of local people as well as businesses, thus ensuring that a wide range of stakeholders were targeted.

Challenges were encountered throughout the empathise stage mainly concerning the language barrier and survey locations. The language barrier proved to be one of the most challenging as it was essentially impossible to communicate with the large majority of Timorese without a translator. Choosing survey locations was also difficult as there was little data about the distribution of regions across Dili and Timor Leste. This resulted in initial surveys being in central locations; leaving less insight from those located further from the city where the issues may be worse.

As a result of the Empathise stage, a list of issues faced by the Timorese community were identified. This was the Design stage of the Design Thinking Process. It was evident that there was currently no system in place to manage plastics. Therefore, it can be deduced that the Plastic for Purpose project has great potential in being successfully implemented in Timor-Leste.


The Problem:

Waste issues in Dili are exemplified by littering and dumping of waste in public areas such as waterways, streets, beaches and the wider environment. Furthermore the burning of rubbish is a result of poor community understanding and underdeveloped waste management systems in Dili. Plastics are used excessively by local people, an example being plastic bags used too liberally markets around the city as well as the need to buy bottled water.There is a lack of “reduce” mentality when it comes to plastics in Dili. The most often reported types of plastic waste in Dili includes plastic bags, which account for 12% of Municipal Solid Waste(MSW), water bottles (6% of MSW) (GoTL & UNDP 2016). Paper and Cardboard comprise 18% of MSW (GoTL & UNDP 2016). The problem includes potential environmental consequences and human health risks posed by waste in waterways and the burning of plastics.

The problem exists due to a number of factors, including the lack of education as to importance of proper waste management, lack of understanding of recycling as a concept, lack of widely operating segregation of waste systems, lack of assets to collect segregated waste and lack of domestic industry to absorb any recyclable waste. The challenges facing exportation (freight costs and legislative issues (Oliveira 2017)) of recyclable material has compounded these systemic flaws, essentially trapping recyclable waste in Timor-Leste and preventing use of international recycling facilities. Regardless, some companies have attempted international sales of usable plastic waste(Oliveira 2017). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have received significant funding (some $150 000 (GoTL & UNDP 2016)) from the Government of Timor-Leste in late 2016 to enact a waste segregation plan, though the implementation of the pilot program are yet to be seen and this slow progress is an endemic problem. Four of the five existing private recycling companies are running at a loss or breakeven, with only the metal recycling business making profits. These businesses are all relatively small scale and have are not very well known throughout the communities. They need support in order to be successful. Other companies have already closed down, for example Bee Mor ran an initiative where they collected water bottles, however they had no use for them and eventually had to close. There are  examples of household levels of recycling, with refilling plastic water bottles with fuel to sell being a common example.  

Waste management systems in Dili are still being properly developed. Currently a group of 30 to 45 trucks drive specified routes regularly to collect rubbish and take it to Tibar Dump site. This system is effective, however it does not involve any segregation of rubbish, is limited in its capacity and does not deal with rubbish that is littered in non-collection point areas. Tibar dump resorts to burning all rubbish collected with no segregation prior to this. Recycling infrastructure is much less developed, with 5 companies currently operating in the recycling space; Besi Tua Lld, H3R, Star Product, Green Hope (Hopeseller subsiduary) and the Haburas Faundasaun. Recyclables make up 39%, 46.7 tonnes (GoTL & UNDP 2016), of waste taken to Tibar on a daily basis. There exist at least two well-established environmental youth movements; Hopeseller and Movimento Tasi Mos.

In many areas, especially those outside of the city centre, rubbish is picked up irregularly, and in some cases piles up in drains, ditches or in general piles on the side of the road. The government currently is attempting to begin a new solid waste management program, which would serve to alleviate some of the issues of waste littering the area, however, the lack of recycling infrastructure leads to many more issues presenting themselves. While current waste management, which is leading to a dirtier environment with increased health risks, the waste disposal at Tibar dump is causing large amounts of environmental damage on both a local and country-wide scale.

A collection system is in place, with rubbish being collected from the front of houses or public bins daily in most surveyed areas. However, locals have indicated strongly that the further away from the city centre, the less frequent the rubbish collection. Collection in outer district areas is essentially non-existent. The collection method is seemingly time consuming as multiple people are required to load the rubbish onto a truck. It is not uncommon for rubbish to be left by the side of the road uncontained, resulting in further difficulty in collection. Many locals resort to burning rubbish to combat the infrequent collection. It is clear that there is not a clear understanding of the environmental and health risks concerning burning plastics.


Your Solution:

Not relevant to our project yet.


Future Actions:

 As a result of the first month of project in Timor-Leste, we have compiled a list of suggestions for future action.

1.    It may be beneficial to encourage the UNDP and existing Government waste segregation programs to cooperate in collecting waste to recycle. This could be achieved by establishing partnership with, coordinating or absorbing, existing recycling companies in Dili to form an overarching recycling business.

2.    Another suggestion would be to sell the recycling solution(s) to companies or communities separately.  

3.    The final solution may be of the following forms:

a.              Use an idea from the Project Everest website

b.             Progress the ideate stage

4.    The ultimate goal would be to hand over the business to the local community.



edited on 19th January 2017, 07:01 by Hana N

Amber Johnston Jun 20, 2017

Status changed to Previous Work

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