Innovate UK award a £50,000 R&D grant to MyPlasticDiary so they can invest in further developments to their ‘fitbit for plastic’ app.

How does the app help reduce plastic use?

How can we reduce our personal plastic consumption if we don’t know where it’s coming from? This is the central question that prompted Alex Zilbur to design a plastic tracking app. He is the co-founder of MyPlasticDiary, with the necessary experience in fintech to find a tech solution to our global plastic emergency.

The app enables the user to record and track all the plastic packaging involved in normal, day-to-day shopping. You can enter all plastic packaging items, sort them into different types of packaging and view your plastic statistics from the end of week one.

Knowledge is power. And, in this case, knowing where the plastic in your life is generated becomes the starting point to its reduction. For example, you might discover that a high proportion of your plastic is from fruit and vegetable containers. So you can analyse where you’re buying them from and find plastic free alternatives. But if you don’t know the specifics of the problem it’s much harder to fix.

Spreading the word

Social media integration is currently built into the app. As you use the app over time, you earn ‘trophy’ rewards for reducing your plastic consumption. These are both motivational tools for more competitive individuals and a familiar way to share on any social media platform. It’s a way of saying ‘look, I reduced my plastic consumption by 15% in three months and all I did was…’. The creators hope that this becomes a point of inspiration for others to join in.

Focus on the positive

It’s also a good way to avoid the doom laden language that often surrounds the topic of plastic pollution. Underlying every policy is the ‘Humans are ruining the planet, what are you going to do about it?’ message. It’s obviously based on truth and emphasising individual responsibility is crucial to any wider policy’s success.

But most of us feel overwhelmed by the size of the global problem and can conclude that our contribution is too small to make any real difference. This new app is focused on your real data. And it tracks your own journey to reducing your plastic consumption. Its celebratory aspect is a welcome step towards feeling positive about personal everyday changes.

This element of targets, awards and social media sharing won’t be for everyone. And that’s OK. But having the option makes it a more inclusive experience for all types of people.

Connecting with the source

The focus for MyPlasticDiary’s R&D in the immediate future is to develop seamless integrations with existing grocery shopping apps. This might include the possibility of using barcode scanning to input the packaging information. And this is where the new Innovate UK funding is going to be spent.

Alex Zilber told Startups of London:

“Thanks to winning the Innovate UK grant, we are able to make our project even more ambitious and far-reaching. For us, 2020 was the year of connecting with people who care about sustainability and understanding their needs, but 2021 will be about integrating packaging and plastic footprint information into online shopping and through this reaching out to a much wider audience. Our aim is to make an average shopper who buys products online a lot more aware of the environmental impact of packaging and helping them to make more sustainable choices. We are in early talks with potential retailer partners in the UK and Europe and we welcome interest from other partners in this space.”

Jamie Smith