The crowd-cleaning app pays people to pick up trash
To most people, trash is just trash. But according to Gal Lahat and Adam Ran, founder and co-founder of the CleanCoin app, trash is a way for people to make money — and make the world a cleaner place.
The one-year-old app unites thousands of users in crowd-cleaning, a game-like activity of mapping, picking up and transporting trash.
Users are paid in CleanCoin points, which can be redeemed for products or discounts.
CleanCoin has raised $1 million in seed money, and the company will soon hold another round to raise $5 million.
There are nearly 100,000 users in Israel, and CleanCoin already has development partners in Canada, New York, and the United Kingdom.
European users are translating the app into their native languages, Ran said, and the company is now working with an Austrian supermarket franchise to manage food waste.
“Currently, 70 percent of fruits and vegetables are thrown away while people are starving,” Ran said. “Our app shows where there is a food surplus and people can pick it up.”
Document it and get rewarded
The app proves that decluttering can be a group effort.
Let’s say someone spots litter in Haifa and reports it on CleanCoin, the way someone reports a traffic jam on Waze. The first person can clean it or leave it to others who want to clean it.
The person who answers takes pictures of the “before and after” garbage collection, documenting where he took the garbage.
CleanCoin’s AI system verifies information to prevent fraud and determines how many points are awarded.
People can earn about 10 shekels for a bag of trash that can take a few minutes to fill, Lahat says.
The points collected for each bag can be redeemed for a free stay at an Abraham Hostel, for example, or for Billabong clothing. CleanCoin has already signed 60 stores in Israel, including InventTech, TrekMarket, Aroma coffee houses and Azrieli.com.
Ran said a woman who now uses the app gets a lot of discounts on her family’s groceries at the Nitzat HaDuvdavan (Cherry Blossom) health food chain. CleanCoin is now in talks with travel companies and surf clubs.
Ran said that in the future, users will be able to withdraw money from their CleanCoin wallet and transfer it directly to their bank account.
Trash is like money
Lahat, CTO of CleanCoin, wrote his first game app at the age of 12. He has always loved hiking in nature with his family, continues to enjoy kayaking and hanging out on cliffs, and says his “ideal landscape includes both the sea and the mountains.”
He said he was upset that he “finds a large amount of rubbish in nature”. This is how he combined his love of gaming with his love of coding and his passion for the environment.
“I realized that there was very little innovation focused on solving the world’s biggest problems,” says Lahat. “CleanCoin is a gamified application for waste management that can change the environment.”
International companies are signing up to partner with CleanCoin because it’s “instant green branding,” Ran said.
Today’s customers “want to buy products from companies that are ethical and part of the solution.”
Ran met Lahat at Inventech in Haifa in February 2020. (The city is now a sponsor of CleanCoin.)
The two were concerned about ecology and wanted to create an app that would “incentivize people to get involved in environmental protection and make money at the same time,” Ran said.
If recycling companies can make money from garbage, why can’t individuals?
“Throughout the world, trash is like money on the ground,” Ran said.
Everyone can help
Rotem Ben-Eli, 20, who is about to start working as a flight attendant for El Al, signed up for CleanCoin about eight months ago after hearing about it on Instagram.
The Ashdod resident said he now uses CleanCoin “whenever I get a chance.”
Ben-Eli said he has always loved nature. In his youth scout movement, “my counselors taught me the importance of keeping the Earth clean.” He was bothered when he went out with his friends and they littered.
“I started picking up the snack bags and bottles by myself,” Ben-Eli said.
Now you will be rewarded for your efforts. He likes to get discounts through Aroma CleanCoin and also received cosmetic products. Ben-Eli said he convinced his sister to join. When they go hiking, the sisters stop to pick up trash, take photos of their achievements, and earn points.
He said he learned another surprising thing since using CleanCoin. He has a new relationship with the people who pick up trash on the street.
“I always felt sorry for them,” Ben-Eli said. “But now I see that everyone can join in and help.”