How Does CleanHub Collect Plastic Waste?

By Beth Howell on April 9, 2024
How Does CleanHub Collect Plastic Waste?
Beth Howell
Beth Howell

Beth has been writing about the environment and climate change for over four years now – with her work being featured in publications such as The BBC, Forbes, The Express, Greenpeace, and in multiple academic journals.

At CleanHub, we’re on a mission to eradicate plastic pollution on our planet. We do this primarily by making sure that people in areas vulnerable to plastic pollution have effective waste management systems in place. 

So far, we’ve collected over 7,000,000 kilograms (kg) of plastic — and we plan on collecting a lot more in the coming years. 

Achieving this goal partly comes down to our range of collection techniques. That’s why we’re here to show you exactly how we go about collecting plastic waste, and why we choose these methods. Read on to find out everything you need to know. 

Want to reduce your business’s plastic footprint? We can help. All you have to do is get in touch with our in-house team using the form below. Once we’ve received your details, we can arrange a call to discuss which plastic recovery plan will suit your business needs best.


What’s on this page?

01 | How we collect plastic waste
02 | Understanding the plastic pollution crisis
03 | Summary
04 | FAQs


How we collect plastic waste

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to plastic waste collection. Although the majority of our plastic recovery efforts come from household collection, we also explore other smart methods.

Here are some of the most common ways we collect plastic waste, and prevent a buildup in the ocean. 



1. Collecting household waste

The best way to prevent ocean pollution is by addressing the root cause — that’s why we focus most of our work on household waste collection. 

Some of our projects in Indonesia also go one step further by carrying out door-to-door collection.

There are three key reasons why this is the most effective method when it comes to reducing plastic waste in the long term: it addresses the root cause of the problem, it’s extremely efficient for plastic recovery, and it connects communities to waste management systems.

Let’s explore this in a little more detail.

It addresses the root cause

Plastic isn’t usually discarded in the ocean — it’s typically littered on land or riverbeds. This waste then travels to nearby waterways, or further downriver, eventually ending up in the ocean.

This is the primary reason why we collect waste from households; we prevent plastic from actually reaching the ocean in the first place. 

It’s efficient in plastic recovery

Another key reason why we choose household collection is because it’s far more efficient than litter picking.

We focus our efforts on non-recyclable plastic items — such as empty chip bags, candy wrappers, and plastic bags — which each have an average weight of between 1-8 grams (g).  

Making a real impact with a litter-picking method will take time and resources, especially since we want to collect tonnes of this material. This doesn’t make sense from an environmental or economic perspective.

It connects communities to a waste management system

Many of us take our waste management systems for granted, but not everyone is lucky enough to benefit from household waste collectors. 

Some communities only have two main options: to burn their waste or discard it in the open environment. 

This is why we believe household waste collection is the best way to reduce plastic pollution in the long term. After all, we can only really solve the plastic pollution crisis if everyone in the world has access to a waste management system. 


2. Utilizing existing systems

Most European countries have access to recycling centers that deal with recyclable materials, electronic waste, or old furniture and mattresses. 

These places also exist in developing countries — on a smaller scale, but in much higher numbers — and are sometimes known as “waste banks” (though the name changes slightly depending on the nation). 

Traditionally, waste banks in developing countries only accept recyclable goods. However, at CleanHub, we’re utilizing these facilities as aggregation points for non-recyclable waste. This has been made possible through our incredible waste management partners

  • ecoBali – based in Indonesia
  • GOT BAG – based in Indonesia
  • Green Worms – based in India
  • Recity – based in India
  • No Trash Triangle Initiative – based in Indonesia
  • vRecycle – based in India
  • COMPED – based in Cambodia
  • The Recycler – based in Tanzania

This setup means citizens can now benefit from a waste management system that takes non-recyclable waste as well as recyclable items. It’s a win for both the environment and the locals.

3. Empowering micro-entrepreneurs

In many developing countries, some people already go from house to house collecting recyclable goods as a way to make money. Once they’ve collected the waste, they’ll sell it on to organizations through small scrap shops. 

As part of our recovery efforts, we also work with people at scrap shops to source non-recyclable plastic waste and make sure it’s dealt with responsibly. 

4. Running beach cleanups

Together with our collection partners, we organize and sponsor regular beach cleanups in areas vulnerable to plastic pollution. 

Cleanups tend to receive criticism from the waste management industry, with the main complaint being that they’re not an effective tool for solving the root problem. 

Although this statement is true, solving the plastic pollution crisis will need efforts from all angles. While household collection tackles the root cause of plastic pollution and prevents it from continuing, beach cleanups can focus on improving the huge swathes of land that are currently smothered in plastic. 

Beach cleanups also have an immediate impact on wildlife. Changing tides are constantly flushing new plastic onshore — but collecting these washed-up items will prevent them from returning to the ocean and potentially harming marine life. 

Picking up waste on beaches also educates others, raises questions from beach visitors, and encourages people to lead by example.

Check out this footage of our recent beach clean-ups with our collection partners:

5. Invest in collection technology in rivers

As well as cleaning up coastal areas, we help keep rivers plastic-free — preventing items from drifting downstream and into the ocean.

We do this by partnering with selected organizations that install barriers in rivers. This is effective because the waste tends to accumulate at one specific point due to the currents, which means there’s very little effort needed from the people working on the project. 

These barriers are also a great visualization of how much plastic actually floats through the rivers.


People working on the  conveyer belt at a waste collection facility sorting plastic


Understanding the plastic pollution crisis

Rapid growth in global plastic production didn’t happen until the 1950s. However, annual plastic production has exploded since then, increasing by nearly 230-fold to 460 million tonnes.

This excessive production, paired with the fact that some plastics take hundreds of years to degrade, means our planet is now being smothered in the stuff. Plastic has reached every corner of the world — even the deepest part of the ocean: the Mariana Trench. 

And given one in four people (2 billion individuals globally) don’t have access to proper waste management systems, this plastic pollution is only set to increase over time. 

If there is no waste collection system in place, trash will be left on the streets, dumped into rivers and oceans, or even burned. 

The waste management problem in developing countries

Waste management is typically paid from two sources: taxes and extended producer responsibility (a law in some countries that requires brands to pay a small fee for every piece of packaging they sell).

Unfortunately, countries with low GDP typically don’t have enough tax funds to pay for waste management facilities and processes. Put simply, it’s much cheaper to dump waste in a landfill than to set up proper recovery centers.

And the recycling facilities that do currently exist in developing countries are few and far between, meaning they’re often too far away from people who need them. This is a particular challenge for many island communities.

In recent years, some waste has become valuable and can be traded as a commodity. As a result, there is an entire informal sector that organizes itself around collecting, sorting, and recycling raw materials, such as newspapers, cartons, metals, and certain types of plastic. 

Although this is a good thing, it amplifies the waste management problem in developing countries. The only type of materials that are seen as valuable in this market are items that can be recycled — that leaves a lot of non-recyclable materials with no place to go but the ocean. 

That’s why CleanHub focuses its efforts on collecting this low-value waste that can’t be recycled. 

Instead, we send it to an incineration plant that turns the waste into cleaner fuel, which is eventually used to create low-carbon cement. This saves roughly 600 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) per ton of plastic.

You can learn more about this on our page: What Happens to the Waste We Collect?



Hopefully, you’re now feeling a bit more clued up on the different ways CleanHub collects plastic around the world.

It isn’t an easy task, but it’s one that we feel passionate about — and we wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of our brand partners. 

If you’d like your brand to reduce its plastic footprint and be a part of this exciting project, get in touch with our in-house team using the button below. Once we’ve got a call set up, we can discuss the different ways your brand can support this important cause. 

Want to reduce your business’s plastic footprint? We can help. All you have to do is get in touch with our in-house team using the form below. Once we’ve received your details, we can arrange a call to discuss which plastic recovery plan will suit your business needs best.



Does CleanHub collect plastic from the oceans?

We only collect a very small amount of plastic from the ocean, which is usually by-catch from local fishermen. 

There are organizations that already work on recovering plastic from the ocean, and we tip our hats to them. Although ocean plastic-recovery methods have been questioned by some, we need all hands on deck to tackle the plastic pollution problem. 

And while these organizations focus on plastic that’s already in the ocean, we’re dedicated to stopping plastic from reaching the oceans in the first place. 

Why only focus on coastal areas?

All of our collection hubs are located near rivers and areas that are roughly 20 to 30 miles from the coast. 

The reason we focus on these coastal areas is simple: they tend to be more heavily polluted with plastic than other areas. The waste here mounts up pretty rapidly, and ends up in the oceans through river currents or after heavy rainfall. 

Some studies also suggest that waste located up to 50 kilometers from the coast has the highest chance of reaching the ocean. So by focusing our efforts in these regions, we can have a bigger impact than if we were to focus on more inland areas. 

Can customers decide where plastic is collected?

Yes, any brands that partner with CleanHub can choose from two options:

  • A portfolio of hubs – With this plan, brands can fund the collection of plastic from each of the hubs that we work with. This means they’ll be helping communities in Indonesia, India, Cambodia, and Tanzania. For transparency’s sake, brands will get a detailed report of how much they collect from each area
    A focus on one hub – This option allows brands to dedicate their funds to one specific hub, which means more plastic will be recovered in that community

What is the direct impact of opening a waste collection hub?

Waste collection hubs have a range of direct benefits for both the environment and the local community.

  • Environmental benefits – In many developing countries, there are no formal waste management systems without collection hubs. This can only mean one thing: plastic pollution in precious ecosystems. By setting up these facilities, we’re helping wildlife of all shapes and sizes, reducing the chance of microplastics getting embedded in the surrounding land and water, and creating a cleaner living environment for locals
  • Social impact – Collection hubs also benefit locals in the nearby communities. Not only do they improve the living conditions, but they also create safe jobs, where workers are treated well for their hard work

Who works for the collection hubs, and how are they hired?

At the collection hubs that we work with, workers are usually based in local communities, with the vast majority being female employees. 

Our selected hubs provide locals with access to dignified work with proper health and safety standards in place, as well as health insurance.

The employees are hired by the hubs themselves, as they have more local knowledge about the necessary requirements. However, we carry out a social audit on each hub that we work with, to make sure they provide the working standards and benefits as advised by the labor standards.

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