An interview with the founders of MyPlasticDiary, an exciting new tool that helps people reduce their plastic footprint.
A few weeks ago, we came across an exciting new tool that could be a game changer for people trying to reduce their plastic footprint. We are talking about the MyPlasticDiary app, which allows users to track and record the plastic waste they generate on daily basis and ultimately reduce it.
We spoke to co-founders of the app, London-based Max Korotkov (MK) and Alex Zilber (AZ).
Plastic Oceans Canada: Max, Alex, tell us how you came up with the idea of an app for tracking your plastic footprint?
AZ: This has come out of personal experience. For a while I was frustrated by the amount of plastic in my trash, and one day I decided to do something about it. But as soon as I sat down and started planning, I realized that first I had to understand where my plastic waste came from. Was it mostly my groceries? Was it my bathroom cupboard? I quickly realized that I needed to track my plastic for a while in order to find out the answers. Tracking your personal exercise or nutrition is a familiar concept now, so why not have a Strava or MyFitnessPal-type app for plastic?
Plastic Oceans Canada: This seems like a no-brainer indeed! Why hasn’t anyone built anything like this before?
MK: There a few apps out there that allow you to assess your footprint, but none that allow you to track it accurately through time and break it down into categories. The main obstacle is the fact that there isn’t a single good quality database with plastic packaging data, which makes it much harder than tracking one’s calories. We hope that this will change eventually, with industry and governments all paying a lot of attention to quantifying the amount of single-use plastic flowing throw the supply chain in an effort to reduce it.
Plastic Oceans Canada: So what is the user feedback on the app? Are you satisfied with the up take so far?
AZ: We have a lot of very positive feedback! We had over 2000 downloads since the launch in late August, which is as much as we hoped for given a very limited marketing budget. People keep asking us to add new packaging categories and other features that allow to record their plastic as accurately as possible. Most importantly, people confirm our main value hypothesis: just by tracking your plastic for a while, one becomes a lot more aware of the problem and this invariably leads to a more sustainable lifestyle and less waste. Once you see the amount of plastic waste you generate, you can not unsee it!
Plastic Oceans Canada: Can you walk us through the main features of the app, so that our readers know how it all works?
MK: The main features of the app are logging plastic, understanding your footprint and virtual awards and sharing.
We put a lot of effort into creating a simple and intuitive interface that allows you to log all the plastic you use and put it into categories. Just tap on the right product or packaging category (for example Pots and Tubs), then choose an item that describes your product and its size (i.e. a small yoghurt pot), and the app will tell you the approximate weight of the plastic you are logging. If you are not satisfied with the default weight, you can override it with your own value.
Once you’ve logged a week of plastic, you can see the exact breakdown. If you discover that a third of your plastic comes from milk bottles, you know that it is possible to eliminate this plastic by finding a milkman delivery and you can focus on this task. On the other hand, if there is a lot of plastic coming from online grocery shopping and because of your life situation you are going to have to continue with this, you know that this part is not going to be as easy to reduce. Being realistic and trying to make small changes is key to any programme of change. Do not be hard on yourself if you cannot eliminate 100% of plastic on day one, the important thing is making progress.
Last but not least, we think that people who use the app can become real agents of change. That’s why we’ve built an integration with social networks. Once a week, MyPlasticDiary calculates your plastic usage and if you have been doing a good job, it awards you with a virtual medal or a cup. You can post this to your Facebook or Instagram feed and let others know that you are actively trying to reduce your plastic footprint and inspire them to do the same.
Plastic Oceans Canada: What do you plan next? Are you going to add more features in the new future?
AZ: Our mission is to bring plastic footprint and more general packaging sustainability information to as wide an audience as possible. That is why we applied for an Innovate UK grant to design a service that would integrate plastic footprint information into the online shopping journey of an average customer. We are happy to say that our argument did not fall on deaf ears and we were awarded fifty thousand pounds to do customer research and build a service prototype.
MK: From the start, our original vision was to integrate the app with online grocery shopping platforms. Imagine how cool it would be if everyone had the full information about the plastic footprint of their shopping basket as you do your food shopping, wouldn’t that lead to people making different choices? This is especially important these days with more and more people taking up online shopping for food, partly because of COVID. It is much harder to understand how much plastic packaging you buy when doing this online, as often you cannot really see it.
Plastic Oceans Canada: Are you working with any supermarkets on this project?
AZ: We are speaking to retailers in the UK and the Netherlands about potential pilot projects. Of course, we would be very interested to try something out with a Canadian retailer as well!
Plastic Oceans Canada: Are you doing any work with charities and non-profits?
AZ: Yes, we are talking to several non-profit organisations about potential projects. We see MyPlasticDiary app as something that can be useful in a school setting or as part of a community awareness campaign. We are also helping our app users to support charities that fight plastic pollution: we are proud to be working with Plastic Oceans Canada on such a project, but perhaps this could make a good subject for a separate announcement!
Plastic Oceans Canada: Thank you very much Max and Alex and let us work together on bringing more awareness about plastic pollution to people and giving them a way to quantify and reduce their personal footprint.