Innovation series gathers stories of some of the most innovative social businesses around the world that work with the dual aim of profit and impact. Businesses committed to doing good stand out from the crowd because most customers feel good about supporting socially proactive companies. They also achieve a boost in productivity since employees who know their work tangibly affects the lives of others are more likely to go above and beyond. It is hoped that the series will impart useful knowledge for greater institutional support for activities with social innovation impact. Read about SEV’s new investor-led initiative – a social venture builder.
Social business: XUsed
by Joanne Willemin & Yusuf Jaffar
In 2015, only 15% of Malaysians were recycling their waste. This is far from the 22% target rate that the government wants to achieve by 2020 – which, in all honesty, looks fairly modest in comparison to current recycling rates in some of the developed countries such as Singapore (59%), Austria (68%) and Germany (62%).
The costs of non-recycling are not insignificant: increased environmental pollution, reduced natural resources, greater energy consumption (because producing a recycled product consumes up to 70% less energy that creating it from raw materials) – all of which continue to put undue financial burden on public finances.
It appears that most people are aware of the importance of waste reduction but have little to no incentive to actually practice recycling. Meanwhile, personal ethics is a motivator for a very small proportion of the overall population. For low-income households especially, recycling is not a major concern given their preoccupation with other essential problems.
Finding a solution
XUsed Global Solutions (XUsed) is a social business that encourages Malaysians and local organisations to recycle in exchange for money. Various used items such as cooking oil, aluminium, plastic, paper, glass, food and even e-waste (e.g., mobile phones and computer hardware) are sold and bought via a web-based application. The latter features a simple dashboard that helps users keep track of their waste item totals and earnings.
In addition to the positive environmental effects of recycling, XUsed also alleviates the financial difficulties of struggling families as well as charities.
Impact to date
The company is very young but very hopeful. In October 2016, XUsed recorded more than 2,000 active users of the application; these individuals have been supplementing their regular income by an average of USD40/RM160 a month.
The recycling sector in Malaysia has a huge potential since the market remains largely untapped. Particularly with regard to certain types of items (such as paper and aluminium cans), it seems possible for the country to achieve a relatively high rate of recycling. (For example, Brazil and Japan both boast recycling rates for aluminium of more than 90%.)