You are the co-founder of Sampangan.id. The company’s mission is “Creating a zero-waste world, where waste is converted into value.” You convert waste into sustainable materials for circular economy using carbonisation technology. Can you explain in more detail why you founded Sampangan.id and about your work?
My educational background is computer sciences in Malaysia and my first career was in a bank. I created a digital team within the bank where we wanted to rethink the role of banks in the growing technology space. After being occupied there for around 4 years, I joined a fintech company focusing on bank transfer services. This company grew very fast and I learned a lot about how start-ups operate and scale. I left the company to build my own.
What is the relationship and transition in my vita to environmental issues then? I didn’t wake up one day thinking I want to solve the climate crisis. There are huge landfills in Indonesia. Like mountains of waste, literally. Seeing this perplexes you. You don’t see this in your front- and backyard but it is the reality in many parts of the world. This is when I started to learn more about waste, circular economy, and the impact of waste on climate change. We are on a mission to convert waste into sustainable material.
One of the main problems in Indonesia is the lack of infrastructure from waste collection to waste processing. Only 2 percent of the state budget is allocated to waste management. There is currently no business model based on existing technology that solves the 99 percent of waste not being recycled yet. However, we believe with technology, innovation and most importantly collaboration this is possible.
How do you convert waste into value for circular economy?
We have the technology that is able to turn waste into products such as active carbon, biogas and many more. We convert waste into sustainable technology.
For doing so we use two main technologies. The first one is a carbonized technology, we call this the ‘magic box’. Through this machine waste goes in and is converted, for example plastic is converted into crude oil. From this we make biocatalysts. It is a closed loop system. It basically works like a rice cooker or oven. The source of energy is the waste input. The secret source is biocatalyst, which is the lifework of my dad. It is the core foundation of our technology, ensuring that the heat radiation functions without the presence of oxygen, hence there is no burning and no emissions involved. The second process aims to solve wet organic waste, functioning like a bio digester. Those are the main two technology we have . And they are not just able to be deployed at small scale but also at big scale such as for landfills.
How does Sampangan.id contribute to solving the climate crisis?
The end game is how can we do prosperity creation powered by waste? Waste is unlimited. Solving the waste problem, helps mitigating the climate crisis and accelerating circular economy. Anything that can be recycled should be recycled.
Anything that cannot be recycled goes into agriculture and industry now. In agriculture we experience a significant decline in productivity per hectare due to the degrading quality of soil. Chemical fertilizers are one of the biggest contributors for accelerating climate change. The biofertilizer which we create from our waste management fosters regenerative farming. We managed to increase the productivity of rice farming almost by a double. It helps farmers to reduce cost and increase revenue. It clearly shows the potential of prosperity creation powered by waste.
This prosperity creation also applies for construction material, which is highly energy consumptive. We introduced a new material to the market that is made from waste and activated carbon, which is not only stronger than common construction materials but also more affordable as being generated by waste. The benefits of activated carbon can now be used to supplement common cement at scale.
Climate Tech „Hype or Hope“- what’s your assessment?
More and more start-ups and corporations are engaging in climate tech. It is a big hope for climate change mitigation and adaptation, but still the beginning. And there are yet many barriers to overcome. Who are the key stakeholders? Corporations or governments making policies or last but not least moving the majority of people to do things differently?
How to overcome these barriers?
For mainstream corporates, understanding new climate tech business models is still far away. Most of them are commercially motivated. We need to crack to change businesses to change their operations towards more sustainability while being profitable at the same time. This will not happen in short term. But the good news is there are many climate pioneers in Indonesia driving this change, believing that by doing good they can still be profitable. Further, one of the main drivers in Indonesia is the shareholder shift demanding more sustainability. If the markets asks the producer to become more sustainable, they adapt. This has especially happened in tech companies.
What do you expect from the Indonesian G20 Presidency ? How can they support innovation that implement climate solutions?
The G20 is a very high level meeting. An immense support would be the opportunity to involve and inspire start up corporates. For example, by providing a platform for corporations and climate tech companies to meet and provide a stage for corporations to share challenges. Basically, a reverse pitch. There are many corporationswilling to become more sustainable, sharing the same challenges.
Besides, one main barrier is always access and trust. The access to right stakeholders and trust. Is this company reliable or not? Will it be run for the next years?
If the G20 would be able to provide this platform, it would be amazing. It will deliver tangible results such as inspiring tech companies to expand to other G20 countries.
Further, corporation listen to three things: shareholders, the market, and the government in the context of regulation. Governments have big power in influencing corporations via regulations, as they are not willing to pay compliance costs. It is important to understand from a government perspective the true costs on the ground and the need for tangible changes that must happen.
For example in Indonesia there is no regulation for carbon accounting yet. Every corporation needs to be able to assess the waste value chain of the entire production, not only of the factory itself. Otherwise the product they create becomes waste elsewhere.