One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Water

An Indian start-up created a machine that provides clean drinking water in exchange for empty bottles or cans.

Autor*in Terri Kafyeke, 04.21.16

An Indian start-up created a machine that provides clean drinking water in exchange for empty bottles or cans.

With an estimated population of over 1.25 billion, India is the second most populous country in the world. It is therefore not surprising that the country has to deal with numerous social and environmental challenges. In particular, poor water sanitation is a major health and environmental issue. A report released by WaterAid on World Water Day last month found that 75.8 million people in India lack access to safe drinking water, the highest number in any country.

Trestor, a start-up based in Chandigarh, wants to use technology to empower communities and hit two birds with one stone – waste management and offering potable water. The business collaborated with two students from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay to design a machine that provides water in exchange for plastic bottles and cans.

“Through our ​’Swachh ​Machine’, ​we intend to ​inculcate a ​culture of ​cleanliness ​among people by ​incentivising ​them for every ​used bottle or ​aluminium can ​they put in the ​machine, in ​lieu of which ​they will be ​rewarded with a ​digital value ​token called ​‘​trest’. ​This can also ​be exchanged ​for 300 ml of ​clean drinking ​water.” ​

– Kunal Dixit, founder of Trestor


The concept is very simple. The user ‘feeds’ the machine with a plastic bottle or an aluminium can (up to one litre), which is then stored in a compartment at the bottom of the machine. The user then receives 300 ml of clean drinking water or a digital value token. The machines are connected to the internet, and the administrator receives a notification when the storage compartment is 80 per cent full.

According to Hindu Business Line, a pilot of the machine at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay has already brought down plastic waste by over 10kg per week. The first machines in Chanidgarh and Mumbai have proven successful, and there are already plans to expand the project to other cities, such as Dehli and Bengaluru and eventually install the machines at places such as cinemas, shopping centres and train stations.

The Swachh Machine is named after Swachh Bahrat Abhiyan (“Clean India Mission”), an ongoing campaign by the government of India. Swachh Bahrat Abhiyan was launched in 2014 with the objective of fixing the country’s sanitation problem and eradicating open defecation. By keeping bottles and cans off the streets and providing safe drinking water to citizens, the Swachh machine lives up to its name.

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