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Al Costa, Founder and CEO, TeknTrash

TeknTrash: Changing the Landscape of Sustainability

When a certain company’s scrap is properly disposed, the chances of them ending up on the black market are less to none. A company can also be confident that its liability will be reduced, that its competitors will not gain an advantage, and that the quality of its product will stay good. Sometimes, it is difficult to manage and trace the supply chain of the purchase, usage, and the disposal of a product. But the role of modern technology, especially the likes of AI, can play a vital role in the supply chain.
Using certified destruction services, the disposal procedure can be tracked and secured. This chain of custody ensures the highest level of professionalism by including photographic and video evidence of the destruction.
Looking at this, TeknTrash, an AI analytics company started to offer its services to deliver the missing link of product lifecycle. It uses AI to locate products at disposal time and thus obtain real time consumer data.
In the following interview, Al Costa, the Founder and CEO of TeknTrash, sheds light on the journey of his company, its offerings, and the future aspects of the GreenTech sector.
Please brief our audience about TeknTrash, its USPs, and how exactly does it help companies match their sales to their effective consumption.
TeknTrash is an AI and analytics company which obtains data from trash. We believe that today we recycle everything except the most important part, which is the consumer data a product contains. So, the who, the when, and the where of a disposed product are important metrics which need to be accounted for, and yet for some reason they are not.
We live in a data-based world and data has been named the ‘new oil’ which makes even less sense. Finally, while we buy our products from many sources, there is one single place where they all eventually end up at, which is the garbage. Thus, being able to locate those products there means knowing the entire consumption of an individual, and that is powerful.
Shed some light on TeknTrash’s offerings and how they impact the industry and its clients?
We believe the recycling model is a failed one, as it only punishes if people don’t recycle, but does not reward if they do. And because it depends on the sale of materials, which pays little, so it is unable to pay too. The end result is that today 11% of methane in the atmosphere already comes from trash (and methane is 88 times stronger than CO2 causing global warming), only 6% of plastic is actually recycled, the largest trash dump is actually the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, etc.
So, we think data is the solution to that problem because it is valuable. So, we can reward people for recycling. To that end, we created, which is currently the only service that effectively rewards people for proper recycling, while providing valuable post-sales data. Regular people register at and take pictures of their consumer products before throwing them in the trash.
Companies then register at and consume that data, geolocating where their products ended up. So, this allows consumer product companies know their consumers better, encourages proper recycling, and creates a source of income for vulnerable people.
Al, please brief us about your journey in the industry and how you have contributed to TeknTrash’s success.
I am a biologist with an MA in Computer Engineering. My father was a diplomat and I’ve lived in countries such as Haiti, so poverty alleviation is something deeply ingrained in me. I founded TeknTrash while living in Barcelona and later I came to the UK to promote it.
Before that, I created companies in USA, UK, Brazil, and Spain, sold my first to one listed in Nasdaq, fundraised in Silicon Valley, lost everything in another, so it’s been a fun ride. And thus, I am called to help startups with marketing, fundraising, and strategy.
TeknTrash is led by a team of scientists and thus, we do not enjoy the greenwashing that unfortunately is taking place in the market. To that end, I brought in Dr Kaveh Madani, who served as the Deputy Head of Iran’s Department of Environment and was Vice President of the United Nations Environmental Assembly Bureau, to create a business model which effectively rewards companies participating in Stipra with real and accountable carbon credits.
In fact, since garbage produces methane and that is such a strong GHG gas, even a single bottle produces enough carbon to be able to translate into credits, so that means companies can obtain carbon credits they can sell in the market for using stipra. For example, Tesla makes more money from selling carbon credits to its competitors than actual car sales, so that is a real opportunity for companies.
Being an experienced leader, share your opinion on how the adoption of modern technologies has impacted the green tech space and what more could be expected in the future?
When it comes to Greentech, I always make a comparison with the Brazilian ethanol model. Having lived in that country for 20 years, I saw how it created a biofuel model that is actually sustainable and widely implemented, as all fuel pumps carry ethanol, all petrol carries 27.5% ethanol, ½ of the fleet is flex, etc. And that was created not by the need to be sustainable and to reduce carbon, but simply because the country would not have the funds to import oil during the fuel crisis of 1973.
Thus, we need to look at the financial sustainability of a green solution, as that speaks much louder than the ESG component, and therefore is more able to bring widespread usage and real ESG benefits.
In fact, if our leaders could see the clear financial benefit of ESG, they would take actions, but they are only presented with the pure environmental benefits, so they of course don’t care. So, it’s a poor marketing scheme if you ask me.
Considering the current pandemic, what initial challenges did TeknTrash face and how did you drive TeknTrash to sustain operations while ensuring the safety of your employees at the same time?
We may be one of the few companies which were unaffected from the pandemic, as our operations were already remote, and I plan them to ever be. In this, I always make a comparison with Harry Potter’s Gringotts Bank. This bank has no ATMs, APP, online presence, etc. It requires its customers to go to the one and only office for any common banking operation such as withdrawing, depositing, getting a statement, etc.
However, no one today would open an account in a bank which requires its customers to go there. On the other hand, no one would trust a lot of money to a bank which has no offices, where one can go and physically speak with a manager when things go sour. That’s why banks created ATMs. These are ‘offices’ of sorts where people can do most of their everyday banking operations, and if they require something fancier, then they can go to the main one.
At TeknTrash, we plan to have a similar model. We will have small offices (ATMs) spread across the UK where employees can work, meet, and do usual everyday work. These offices will be of the size of a room with space for up to four people and will allow employees to work at a place close to their homes, while still physically interacting with other employees.
They will have an app which allow them to choose the closest office to wherever they are at the moment, open the door, get a laptop, printer, etc. from some closet, have a coffee, turn on the heating, etc. For example, if they need to have a meeting with many people, they can choose a larger office or just go to the main one. That way, they don’t need to waste their lives away commuting to work and they can still feel part of an enterprise instead of feeling like they work in solitude of some trappist monastery.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the green tech market?
The same I always give to any entrepreneur irrespective of area: that there are two ways of succeeding. The first way is by quality: when you do the right thing, talk to the right people, close the right deals, etc. However, that usually requires previous expertise, college education, etc., and that is the main reason why so many people do not try being an entrepreneur. To those, there is a second way, which is by quantity.
Basically, going there, doing the wrong things, talking to wrong people, closing the wrong deals, etc., and by doing that acquiring the expertise, knowledge, techniques, etc. that the best MBA would not be able to provide. Both methods lead to success, the only difference is the second takes longer as it requires many more tries, but it is also more satisfying due to learning along the way.
How do you envision scaling TeknTrash’s operations and offerings in 2022 and beyond?
We are embarking on a major fundraise which will allow us ultimately to develop a smart bin. This will allow people to just throw their garbage in one single bag, do the recycling, take pictures of all the products, and reward in the corresponding points. These bins will initially be deployed in shopping centers, as we believe that the public would prefer to go to a shopping center that uses smart bins which reward people for their disposed products rather than others that have old and boring garbage cans.
In the future, we envision this to become a major player in the recycling industry, as we could take the content of this bins to the recycling centers, charge for that service, and they would be glad to pay as the products would already much better recycled than through them. So, they would be able to sell more paper, plastic, metal, etc.
Demonstrating Excellence
TeknTrash is a finalist to the Red Herring Top 100 Europe competition in 2021. It was selected by the WEF (World Economic Forum) as one of the three most impactful technologies, and Euronews chose TeknTrash as #1 Greentech company to watch in 2021.
“So far, we received three grants, so we are making good noise and getting recognition. is already capturing data on top products such as Nescafé, Nivea, Pepsi, and even Ikea furniture! So, we are happy overall,” Al concludes.