Mr Michalke, how did the idea for your deposit system come about?
Kimani Michalke: The idea came from my business partner and co-founder Brett Dickey. He built up a tourism business in Panama – a paradisiacal area, but one that is flooded with plastic waste. So he thought about what to do about this crisis and initiated local programmes like beach clean-ups. The idea: collect plastic waste and take it to the next bigger city for recycling. But it wasn't that simple, he had to realise. From this came the core for our idea, which we then developed in detail.
When did you meet?
Michalke: We met at Company Builder Beam, which builds logistics start-ups, in Berlin. That's where Brett went with his idea. I was also in contact with the company, got to know Brett, was enthusiastic about his original idea and it also worked out very well personally. So we decided to put the idea of a deposit system into practice together and started working on a concept. That was one and a half years ago.
And now the first deposit machine will soon be up and running in Berlin...
Michalke: A lot of things happen quickly with a start-up, but it took time with this complex topic. We started with validation and talked to a lot of people. With packaging engineers, with recycling experts, with cosmetics manufacturers... After more than 150 conversations, we lost count. We read quite a lot. We did studies with consumers to find out if they would return the packaging. The results were very positive overall. Then we partnered with Tomra, the world leader in deposit machines. We also found a recyclate manufacturer. And we developed an app for the return. We are currently preparing the pilot phase, the test run at three locations in Berlin: at Alexander-Platz, at Yorckstraße and at a location that is still being coordinated.