Project Everest

Work Update

[JAN 19] [REPURPOSE] Project Direction - ERS Repurpose Timor-Leste

ERS has split into two projects as of Jan 2019, with a collection and re-purpose team. This was done to enable an even focus on the two major parts of the business, and has enabled a deeper investigation into both sides of the business.

ERS: Repurpose has been working on several experiments, here's the current status:


'Greenhouse Offer Test', set by the December 2018 team

Purpose: To find and validate customer segment for the plastic bottle greenhouse.

  • Reasons: 
    1. The greenhouse was made with the resources that were readily available (plastic bottles), and not empathy data. This makes sales almost impossible and finding the right customer is a needle in a haystack. 
    2. The greenhouse is also built with near perfect plastic bottles and doesn't address all the bottles we collect. 
    3. Making the greenhouse takes hours to create a MVP, making scalability a big problem. Based on the above, the greenhouse proposal is NOT viable.

'Outsourcing recyclables', set by the December 2018 team

  • Purpose: To find and validate if there is a solution for the collected recyclables through outsourcing options.
  • Status: IN PROGRESS
  • Update: Many companies have been contacted, with a lack of response overall. We believe this could be due to the changing laws and regulations regarding importing plastics in many countries like China and Malaysia. Calculations have been conducted to determine the feasibility of exporting our materials to other countries. Results gathered so far do not validate the need for outsourcing at the current rate of collection, however we will continue to contact importing companies with the expected growth of the collection team.  

‘Upcycling’, set by the January 2019 team

  • Purpose: To find and validate the existence of a customer segment whose problem is around an upcycled product we can produce
  • Status: PENDING
  • Reason: The scalability of upcycling is poor and does not provide a long-term solution. Our current focus is directed towards outsourcing the plastics we have collected, as they make up the large majority of materials collected.


We are in a situation where we don't have enough scale to be outsourcing frequently, but have potential to in the future. On the ground, we have been sending a minimum of 100 emails per week to international contacts as well as meeting in person. This leads to a greater understanding of the export industry in Dili. We will continue to do this until there is any positive response (minimal time assigned daily to complete).

Due to the current size of the collection service, we are re-visiting 'Precious Plastic', which is a company that provides the blueprints and recipes to make upcycled products in a somewhat scalable manner. This is done by creating machines from scratch with local parts, then processing plastic into usable products. We are aware that this has been tried, tested and dismissed in the past by PEV, but from looking through previous documents, this was due to scaling problems and machine blueprints far too complex for ERS at the time. However, as precious plastic has evolved to v4, there are many further options to sourcing and building machines as the design has become more refined and issues have slowly been ironed out. There are suppliers that can provide part or whole machines at a relatively competitive cost. As such these new machines are now within reach of ERS.

We will spend the first part of the week conducting research around the feasibility of a MVP (minimum value product) produced by precious plastic and will make a call NLT Friday, as to whether it is viable. IF viable, we will assume some customer segments (probably local markets/online stores) and commence empathizing (with some products in mind).



We are currently researching two options for glass, both of which include crushing into a denser form.

  • Supplying local road companies with a steady stream of aggregate
  • Shipping internationally to buyers

We have recently received quotes for glass crushers ranging from $1800-$9000. We are currently in contact with different companies to determine the cheapest price at which we can purchase a glass crusher. This will have a large impact on the viability of using crushed glass as aggregate for road companies like RMS.


Currently we have only done background research on options for this feed-stock as we haven't started collecting it, and aren't sure what we will receive. The research includes the selling options of bales or pulp to overseas buyers.


As always, open to insights.

ERS Repurpose

edited on 15th January 2019, 06:01 by Rose Gooding

Harry Telford Jan 14, 2019

Status label added: Work Update

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James Balzer Jan 14, 2019

Hmmm, sounds like an interesting situation that you have going on here.

From my perspective at least, it's difficult to determine an appropriate path of action from here. Obviously ERS needs to correctly fulfil the 'Solution' component of the Lean Canvas in order to have a service that they can sell. Quite a few of the above points appear to be alternative solution options or execution strategies for a solution. As you would know, there have been big problems with the previous collection system 'Solution', particularly when it comes to sustaining customers. How have you gone so far at the Offer Testing experiment in terms of trying to re-establish the Value Proposition of ERS? Regardless of how well that's going, perhaps try and consider investigating some more reasons about how both the service and the customers receiving it may have had deeper issues that could have led to customers pulling out. This could help you to re-evaluate what ERS could look like into the future.

I like the idea of finding companies to outsource your collected materials to. As you stated, that could contain a number of blocks, but it's definitely still worth persisting on. Also, it's good to see that you're thinking about the associated costs of exports. You could easily assess the potential for domestic outsourcing options in Timor as well, instead of just international options. I'm not sure how many domestic waste exporting companies exist in Timor-Leste, but in my opinion, it'd definitely be worth investigating.

Just keep in mind that these big exporting companies like to sell/transport in bulk in order to maximise return on investment and not suffer from diseconomies of scale. They typically deal with a lot of organisations that can fill freight containers worth of stuff, so unless you can collect enough to justify them exporting materials collected by ERS, then it could prove near impossible to find an exporter. By all means, don't give up, but also be realistic.

Upcycling is a good idea in theory, but in practice it can be a rather difficult one to implement. You would need to find a way to collect and distribute the products that you want to upcycle, and then find a way to maintain a strong LTV on the selling of Upcycled items. After all, there are only limited customers and limited physical products that you could upscale, making it a difficult pathway to sustain. Likewise, as you stated it's a difficult idea to scale. I'm not entirely sure on what alternatives there could be in trying to do this, but I'm very willing to think this out, and I welcome all on the ERS team to do so as well.

I really hope that Precious Plastics can help you out. At this stage, it would be really good to see if we could on-board them as a potential solution. They would not only be a good way to sustain the ERS business model, but also a great way to potentially scale it. I'm super keen to see how investigation into that pathway goes. Perhaps they could also help you find a more affordable way of crushing glass as well. Who knows.

On a side note, have you looked at providing glass/plastic for the sustainable construction of roads? This is becoming a bit of trend across the world, and with all the Chinese government infrastructural investment throughout Timor-Leste and SE Asia, perhaps this is something that you could be on board with? Just a thought, but perhaps worth pursuing.

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Liv Hendy Jan 21, 2019

Really interesting to hear all of your thoughts going through this month and very clearly we need to balance pushing the barrier with also viability so its exciting to see these new options stemming from previous discussions.

I can't provide any assistance from a technical standpoint, but from an operational standpoint is there a potential to investigate the demand for 'precious plastics' produced goods? That way a potential experiment (or even just an estimation) can be made about the current market demand for recyclable goods. There is always a risk that when we think of recyclables we fall into traditional consumer goods that are just made as with repurposed materials (bags, jewellery, etc.) an interesting point would be the capabilities of these machines to expand into previous ideas teams have had on the ground that they have also dismissed.

I'm not fluent with the timor history of ERS but I did read that there was demand for roofing panels, or potential over goods that can be more sustainable for business's in timor. Good luck in the investigation and hopefully this will pan out as a really strong lead :)

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