Learning Entrepreneurship and Women Empowerment with PET bottle recycling

To provide local communities financial, managerial and technical assistance to open PET bottle and baling collection centres.

Photo of constantin makris
10 23

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Coba Impact SA

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $250k - $500k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 10,000 - 50,000

Organization type

  • For-profit

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Switzerland

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

Ethiopia, Addis Ababa



Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Ethiopia has a significant growth on PET bottle consumption (+12% per annum). Thus the impact to the environment is huge. Prior to Coba Impact's presence, there wasn't an organised collection system in Ethiopia for post consume PET bottles. Ethiopia also has a high unemployment rate amongst young professionals and women have limited opportunities to grow within the business environment.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Growth will come with an empowered local community. We are therefore assisting financially high potential individuals to open PET bottle collection and baling centres that will do business with our factory that will purchase their product. Our focus is to create a self sustainable business entity and to educate on what it takes to run a small business efficiently. As they run their business, we ensure that all correct managerial, financial and administrative measures are put in place. We also provide pressing machines in form of loans, and make sure they also gain technical knowledge on how to operate machinery. Focus is made on hiring women. The mission is to open, in addition to the two already operating, another 4 centres in 2018.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

The impact to date is a follows: Social Impact: The center has hired 48 people of which 75% are women. Indirectly, the launch of this activity has triggered the hiring of another 100 people from the associations that are involved in bottle collection within that area of the city. Environmental Impact: The centres are collecting from the city about 50,000 to 60,000 kg of PET bottles per month. Financial Impact. The centres are generating sales of $USD 10,000.00 per month and are already self sustainable.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Individual donations initially and now through corporate contributions. Coba Impact has signed an agreement with the Zenzero Association for this initiative in Ethiopia. A fund raising event was held in Lugano Switzerland during which CHF. 45,000.00 have been raised. These funds will represent 50% of the budget to launch the second centre in the Addis Ababa area. The long term financial sustainability is ensured by Coba Impact guaranteeing to purchase all the monthly production of the centre at the agreed upon budgeted price. Considering that the price of PET flakes is market driven, for the centre to be profitable, it is of fundamental importance for them to follow very carefully the areas of operational focus that we indicate to them (i.e. production yield, monthly sales, overheads).

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

We are the only company in East Africa that is producing Hot washed PET flakes. We are also the only company in Ethiopia that is involved in such an initiative. We believe that sustainable growth can come only if the local communities can actively contribute in its process. To do so they need to be provided with right tools and knowledge base.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

The aha moment came from a meeting in which we were discussing the details of the large expansion of our recycling plant. The impact on collection is huge considering the triple production capacity that will be required. For recycling to grow and gain awareness in Ethiopia, the most efficient way of achieving this is to assist in creating a network of sustainable businesses that will have a very important impact both socially and environmentally.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Nestlé page or contact

Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

This activity aims to create a longterm PET bottle collection network in Ethiopia. Coba Impact finances local communities to start an entrepreneurial activity that will focus in collecting and baling PET bottles that will be sold to us for our recycling plant. The mission is to create successful entrepreneurs that need to understand the importance of cost value and therefore we do not encourage, for now, donations or charity contributions. The activities we do with our beneficiaries include: 1. Assist in establishing a company and introduce them to legal and regulatory fundamentals of owning a company. 2. Provide the finances for starting operations and purchasing post consume bottles. 3. Provide presses in order to create bales and learn how to operate machinery. 4. Establish a volume and revenue budget with detailed operations and sales targets that need be reached in order for them to be financially sustainable. 5. We have created excel files for them that they fill-in on a daily basis where they input production data in order to follow the daily performances of their team. 6. We require them to outsource a certified accounting firm in order to ensure that all reports are respecting the local accounting standards. 7. We receive from their accountants monthly income statements from which we analyse the financial sustainability. 8. Monthly meetings are held on site to discuss the reports. 9. Weekly on site visits from our team to discuss operational matters.

Focus area

  • Rural Development

We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.

By opening PET collection centres in rural areas, we immediately trigger an economy in post consume PET bottle collections in that specific area. Since the center operates 4 presses, it needs to hire at least 45 people to run the machines. From this we require 75% of the employees to be women. 4 presses at full capacity require 3,360 kilos of PET collected per day from the environment. Associations involved in waste collection, need to hire more people in order to satisfy the required volumes of the center. The financial impact to the local communities is the creation of an activity that generates $USD 150,000 per year. As to the center itself, the purchases from Coba Impact should generate sales of about $USD $180,000.00 to $185,000.00 per year.

Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

This initiative is positively impacting two very critical areas of the society in Ethiopia: 1. Young professionals: By selecting high potential candidates and introducing them to a manufacturing business, we address not only, the high unemployment amongst young skilled professionals, but the scarce level of managerial capabilities encountered in developing countries. 2. Gender equality: By hiring mostly women and by ensuring there is isn't any hierarchical discrimination in the employment positions, we address the issue regarding gender equality in rural Africa. Our organisational experience has shown also that empowering women had a positive affect on men and their performance within the organisation as well.

How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?

The initiative is initially funded through corporate contributions. During the next five years we expect to collaborate with multiples types of organisations, such as NGO's, PET bottlers, Government Agencies that can fund also through donations or grants. During the first four months of operations, the centre has reached it's break-even level and doesn't require any additional cash injection. Sales during the first 4 months are only 30% of the the total production capacity. This low yield is mainly due to poor sales for the first 2 months of operations as they had to collect the bottles to bale, and numerous power outages. Now that the stock is in line with the capacity and a generator will cover the power cuts, we expect to be profitable.

How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?

Should Coba be the winner of the CSV prize, we will most certainly use it for many reasons: 1. Use the win as a communication tool to attract more high potential entrepreneurs to get involved in PET collection business. 2. Strong media coverage, with our ambassador multiple marathon world champion Haile Guebre Selassie, locally announcing the reward so as to further increase awareness on environmental sustainabilty, gender equality and education. 3. Networking with government agencies in order to raise more attention on waste management and recycling. 4. Use the funds, to improve the current centre or open new ones in strategic areas of Ethiopia where there is no waste collection.

How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?

Its of fundamental importance we ensure theses collection centres and overall PET bottle collection in general can increase. Therefore, an eventual investment by Nestle will most likely be aimed at achieving more collection of PET in Ethiopia. The areas in which we can work are: 1. Acquiring land for collection. 2. Initial working capital for collection centres to launch their activity. 3. Try to reduce overhead costs by introducing wet crushers instead of bales. The saving on transport would be enormous. Transport costs of bales have a +25% impact on costs of the centre.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?

The actual centre can accommodate another 2 press machines, thus increasing its current output by 50%. By end 2018 we are expecting to be able to make this addition. This expansion will be done once we have verified for certain that all aspects (financial, managerial, technical, HR..) of the current structure are well under control by the management team. Furthermore, the main strategy for 2018 is to open another 4 centres in the Addis Ababa suburbs. All more or less with the same capacity of 4 presses for baling. Each centre hires about 50 employees. So a total of 200 jobs will be created this coming year. These 4 centres will collect an additional 4 million PET bottles from the environment.

Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?

Owners: 2 people at 50% stake each, one of whom is the General Manager. Full time 1 assistant to the manager. Full time 40 General workers that rotate between bottles sorting and machines pressing roles on a weekly basis. We ensure all employees learn all aspects of the business. Full time and 75% women. 3 Guards: Fulltime 4 general workers at truck delivery and loading: Part time. This type of organisation will grow by 4 to 5 employees as we add more press machines.

Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?

This initiative along with all the recycling operation of Coba Impact in Ethiopia has caught the attention of Multiple world record holder and olympic champion long distance runner, Haile Guebre Selassie. He is therefore honoured us by becoming our ambassador.

Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?

We have launched a two hour recycling awareness documentary at prime time with one of the most important local tv networks EBS. The program was presented by a very famous tv personality and Haile Guebre Selassie himself (see attached youtube links). We are very active in introducing our recycling practices to major PET bottling companies. Nestle for instance, has shown a keen interest on participating in this type of initiative, and we are currently discussing with them and local authorities to allocate a land to commence a collection centre.

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018

  • Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018


Join the conversation:

Photo of Zoé Froget

Hello, this is a great project! One question: how do you specifically target women? like in other countries, the community participation in Ethiopia is usually mediated through men which is generally an issue to reach women. Good luck!

Photo of constantin makris

Hello Zoe. Thank you for your comment. During our hiring processes we very often have women candidates. We do not really encounter any issue of men mediation for reaching out to women in the suburbs of Addis Ababa. So when we announce a job position, there are many women already submitting applications. Hope this answers your question. Thanks and happy new year.

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