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Name of Course: Sustainable Business Models, Fall 2021
Faculty: Roxanna Zarnegar
Duration of Project: 6 weeks
Team Members: Soumil Panwar, Juilee Narkar

Challenge: To build a sustainable, for-profit business that is built upon our interpretation of sustainability

Approach. With an intent to solve the plastic waste crisis in modern cities, we aimed to leverage the consumers of plastic to contribute to recycling plastic by creating inflation in the value of waste and build a viable operations business.


  1. Consumers buy 1.5 million plastic bottles in the US

  2. In the US, only 8.7% of plastic waste is recycled

  3. The global recycled plastic market was estimated at USD45.1 billion in 2019



  1. What if people living in urban cities like New York could easily sell their plastic waste with an intent to earn money higher than the real value of that waste? 

  2. What if we create a reverse supply chain system to buy back each plastic bottle for $3-4 from the consumers and change the perception of the value of plastic waste.

In order to test this hypothesis, we built a preliminary business case to start our research with an approach to refine and develop the solution through iterations and feedback structured as sprints.
Each sprint had a goal and a development in the solution in the form of an MVP. Based on feedback and insights from research, we created 3 iterations of the MVP and developed the concept further.

Preliminary Business Case

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The Service
A vending machine network to collect plastic around housing complexes and food outlets

The Platform
A standalone marketplace app for sustainable brands and products along which can consume the incentives from the waste collection 

Revenue Streams

  1. Partnerships with sustainable businesses for the marketplace

  2. Sale of plastic raw material collected to brands using recycled plastic

  3. Physical and digital marketing space rental on vending machines and the application

Key Assumptions

  1. Creating inflated value on plastic waste is possible

  2. Consumer behaviour with plastic waste disposal will change and they would be willing to give us raw material

Validation Through Research

Target User Profile/ Personas

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Interview Insights

Sample Size: 12 people
Demographics: Indian and Italian immigrants in the US (mostly students)
Goal: To understand and analyze consumer behaviour around incentivisation and waste

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The Lean Canvas

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Product vending machines would be a point of sale store for sustainable brands with a plastic take back mechanism to consume plastic waste and establish a sustainable story as a marketing and brand association component.

  1. Operations for the vending machine would be a customer acquisition cost and a source of raw material to the brands

  2. This generates a business opportunity for small businesses and individuals with access to locations to make additional money, own and manage their own vending machine operations business

Target Customers:

  1. Sustainable brands

  2. Vending machine business owners and networks

  3. Businesses consuming single-use plastics- Starbucks, delis, grocery stores, etc

Value Proposition Canvas

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Value Proposition: Businesses

Position your brand in the sustainable space closer to your users

Sell to aware customers where they need

Value Proposition: Consumers

Make a rightful choice in sustainable consumption while recycling your plastic waste mindfully

Use plastic waste to buy better

MVP 1: Collaboration with Grocery stores

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Toss It will launch as a plastic takeback service in collaboration with retail stores in the neighbourhoods and buy plastic waste from consumers in exchange for direct and indirect incentives.

Key Assumptions:

  1. Aware customers would give back plastic waste as an incentive

  2. Toss-It will be able to provide an inflated value on waste plastic

Task Flows

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Service Map

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Business Model Canvas

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Key Takeaways and Feedback

1. Partnerships with grocery stores is a challenging key partner

2. Large chain grocery stores in the US have high standardisation and strict policies. These policies would make it              difficult and time-consuming to capture the space for Toss-It bins within their stores

3. To test the key assumptions effectively, reducing liabilities of partnerships and cost structures was advised.

MVP 2: Collaboration with housing complexes

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Toss-It will launch as a plastic takeback service in collaboration with residential complexes within low-cost waste collection. Using Toss-It Bins, Toss-It will buy plastic waste from consumers in exchange for cash vouchers on our app.


  1. Residential complexes in NYC give additional facilities in exchange of building a better- high paying community of residents

  2. StreetEasy has 7,716 listings and 5,652 of them include a doorman today

Task Flows

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Service Map: Value Exchange

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How might we create additional social impact using Toss-It?

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The Waste-Art Innitiative 

  1. The Toss-It Bins would have an installation space

  2. Art installations would be placed in these spaces made of plastic waste

  3. Children would take part in a competition to make art using plastic waste, the winner would receive a cash prize and their artwork would be installed within the collection unit


Community Engagement

  1. After 10 paid unit installations, we will install Toss-It Bin in a park for the homeless to sell us plastic for Venmo credit proportional to the weight of plastic

  2. An open challenge to the creative community (students, designers, artists) to send us their trash- art pieces as a yearly contest to promote awareness about the plastic waste crisis. This would create market expansion potential into different commercial spaces.

Social Business Model Canvas

Factoring the social impact factor in the business model canvas

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Impact and Future Steps

A business model has to operate within current and future market scenarios. We looked into various factors that impact this market space and looked at future trends. These trends could give direction to the business model towards becoming resilient and future ready.

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Impact of External Factors on the MVP


  1. Real estate markets are investing in building experiences as amenities. Coffee kiosks, co-working spaces, recreational spaces, etc

  2. Buildings already have a general waste collection (tie and dump in a shoot) system

  3. Building lobbies are getting smaller by the day and are being taken over by essential service providers like food delivery

  4. Residents want to pay lesser rent and plastic waste incentives might not be the amenity they might want to pay for

  5. Apart from plastics, Buildings in the US do not follow sustainable practices. How effective would the sustainable scores be as a hook?


  1. Toss-It could place itself alongside essential services by partnering with them

  2. The aggregator businesses could also associate with our mission and share space with Toss-It

  3. The Toss-It bins could be redesigned for a partnership model wherein these bins act as a point of sale counter for the essential amenity brands like AVO and Amazon Hub

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Impact of Current Affairs on the MVP


  1. Aggregator businesses are turning operational control to customers with apps

  2. These businesses are raising high capital, giving heavy incentives for customer loyalty

  3. Supermarkets have partnerships with these aggregators and are crushing local stores

  4. First to market businesses have a tendency to build a much larger customer base


  1. Toss-It could be placed in the delivery apps of various aggregator platforms as 'Toss-It Sustainability Rewards'

  2. Buildings could be the catalysts to encourage Toss-It sustainability scores

  3. Toss-It could sit back and become a point of sale manufacturer for the aggregator businesses

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Key Learnings

  1. MVP's are often an essential tool to test various assumptions within a business model in reality

  2. Pivoting is essential in order to build a robust business 

  3. MVP's with minimum key partners and cost structures are faster and give more effective returns

Other Projects: Strategic Design

We had to pivot and move towards a less risky and higher revenue model