Resolving the issue of plastic waste management for local communities in Togo

HCD is a methodology to address, develop and design solutions starting from a problem with a process; first with research, then co-creation of prototypes, after that testing in of these prototypes and finally formulating.”

Oumar Ba, Senior HCD Consultant

1. Case Study

How can human-centered design add value to a company’s business? Enjoy the read of this case study, that Proportion did for our client Challenge Works (formerly Nesta), a UK innovation agency for social good. Challenge Works is running a project called Afriplastics Challenge, which has the objective to reduce marine plastics in Sub-Saharan African countries by developing and scaling innovative solutions to plastic mismanagement in a way that promotes gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. Proportion Global is their technical partner to provide innovation coaching to their investees and Oumar Ba, senior HCD consultant was their innovation coach. The organization that Oumar coached is called Green Industry Plast.

2. Summary of the intervention

One of the problems for Green Industry Plast was the lack of adequate equipment for the collection of plastics on the ground. Waste pickers walk for miles collecting the plastic waste. During the human-centered design process, the team developed a prototype called Triplast, a bicycle with a cart to easily store and transport collected waste; The user testing showed that the waste pickers were very enthusiastic about this simple and efficient solution, which validated the idea to be on the right track. 

Green Industry Plast will now further convert the prototype into a better-designed and branded cart-bicycle combination including branded outfits, which will then be offered to their waste pickers. The teams are now very committed and proud of the solutions developed for them; so it makes it easier for them to work in the field. “when we talk about innovation, it is sometimes very simple in fact; it is not always an iPhone”.


  • Company name: GREEN INDUSTRY PLAST
  • Short description of the innovation

GREEN INDUSTRY PLAST is a solution in Togo that addresses the issue of plastic waste through the involvement and empowerment of communities in the sorting and collection as well as recycling of building materials, tables, and other items.

  • Objectives:

GREEN INDUSTRY PLAST’s objective was to optimize its value chain in the collection and sorting of plastic waste from the community to the production place. The company faces some challenges to better engage and motivate its field team in the parts of the value chain relating to sorting collection, and logistics of plastic waste.

  • Phases

– research:

The coaching during the research was about providing the company with research tools and approaches to conduct the fieldwork. This step involved assisting the team to design objectives and research questions as well as planning research activities in time.

– analysis and concept development:

The analysis focused on the support in the reflection over the collected data and generation of actionable insights that enabled creative thinking to ideate and develop concepts.

– Test and Iteration:

It was about supporting the team to run the testing and iterate on the concepts. The testing was conducted with prototypes in the shape of presentations and discussions with users.

– The next step:

The next step is to integrate the learnings derived from the concepts presented during the testing phase for the building of high-fidelity prototypes and testing again.

4. Outcome

The coaching session allowed a better understanding of the initial challenge and identification of opportunities with users and stakeholders that helped the development of the following concepts:

  • Implement a pay-per-kilogram basis for waste brought in. The goal is to buy the sorted waste by kilogram from the teams so that they can have an income to support themselves. These teams will buy the waste from the households and schools that do the sorting. This will motivate these households and schools to become more involved in sorting. In return, they sell back to GIP with a profit margin. This makes the economic model circular and viable by allowing all actors to come out as a winner.
  • Provide logistical support to teams to facilitate the collection of sorted waste from households and schools. To transport the waste from its source to the GIP recycling center, the teams will need logistical means such as tricycles and garbage bags to store the plastics sorted by households and schools.
  • Train the teams to accompany households and schools in the sorting work and provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE) to facilitate their work. The teams must be protected and identifiable in the field. With their uniforms, personal protective equipment, and badges, these teams will be easily identifiable in the field and will be quickly acquired by schools and households.

5. Reflection

  • What went well

– Coaching a company whose members have experience and expertise with the mentality of learning and exploring new areas has significantly facilitated the coaching work.

– Coaching a business with multiple members available for tasks was also a significant plus as multiple activities could be started at the same time, saving valuable time.

  • What we can improve

For francophone companies like GREEN INDUSTRY PLAST, they have a challenge understanding the process during the onboarding. It took us time during the coaching session to explain some aspects of the program and coaching.

This project was commissioned by Proportion Global. If you’ve enjoyed reading this case and want to dive deeper, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us to discuss ideas, ask questions, or explore collaboration. Let’s turn curiosity into action together. Contact Us

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