“We think big, but we realise projects locally. We believe that the more local you work, the better the result – in combination with excellent quality control and commercialisation”, says the 30-year-old designer. At the moment, the Super Local duo is in Malawi, teaming up with manufacturer Sakaramenta to develop a range of affordable high-quality hospital products.” Their project literally saves lives. The Holy Crap project in Nepal was Pim van Baarsen’s graduation work, which he presented at the Salone del Mobile in Milan in 2015.

After visiting Nepal, he was impressed with the huge waste problem in the country and decided to investigate the issue and present a concept for a possible solution. “70% of all the waste produced by families in Nepal just ends up in the rubbish tip – that’s a huge amount. There is almost no sorting. “Recycling has a very negative image here: people associate it with poverty. If you’re rich you buy new things and don’t even think of reusing them, because it’s simply not done.” This is especially the case with the better-off families Super Local aims to influence. “They are trendsetters and can therefore change their neighbourhood and ultimately their society. So Luc and I thought we should somehow be able to convince the middle-class Nepalese families that if they sort their waste, it is worth more. Our research showed that people were willing to do this but needed an incentive: they want something back for their effort. Which is excellent, because waste material has a value if you separate it well so that it stays clean. We came up with a concept to accommodate those families.”

The Holy Crap system: households collect their waste in three differently coloured bags. Green is for organic, blue for plastic, and orange for residual material. The icons on the bag state what can be put inside it. On a scheduled day of the week, the family puts the bin (containing all the bags) in the street. The dustman then collects the household waste by bicycle, in the small streets of Kathmandu.
Super Local wants to work with NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, commonly used to enable phones, tablets, and laptops to share data with other NFC-equipped devices. “NFC chips are easy to get, they’re cheap, and their potential is endless. Surprisingly, they haven’t yet been used for this kind of application. We would like to attach an NFC chip to each rubbish bin. Via an app, the neighbourhood waste collectors can then check the bags and see how the waste is separated. Each well-sorted bag wins the family extra points. And those points deliver benefits. Families who sort their waste well can get phone or food credits, for instance.”

“Nepal is predominantly Hindu. Faith is a good stimulus, as we noticed that the neighbourhoods in which a new temple had been built were completely refurbished. Moreover, the neighbourhood was subsequently kept very tidy and there was much less waste. So we decided to take inspiration from the local religion. Hindus believe that whoever lives a virtuous life will be better off in a future life. We are endorsing that idea: reincarnate your waste! The idea is that it can come back as a quality product. In this way, we manage to avoid the word ‘recycle’.” So far so good. “We had begun working on this project together with a local partner when the April 2015 earthquake struck, followed by a major aftershock in May, and that changed everything.” Thousands of Nepalese were killed, injured, or made homeless. The already struggling Nepalese economy collapsed, chaos took over, people switched back to survival mode, and the government focused on saving what could be saved.

Each rubbish container is equipped with an NFC chip, which can be scanned by the dustman using his phone. After doing this, he records how many well-sorted bags are in the bin.
Now, two years later, Super Local is looking for a new local partner in Nepal who can offer access to a neighbourhood as well as financial support, in order to realise the first Holy Crap project. To show that it works. “We don’t expect anything from the local government – it will have to happen bottom-up, starting with local business- es.” Super Local also aims for collaboration with major international brands. “Adidas and others have Foundations that look for good projects to support. They are working on improving the world, and we can help them.”

All photos: Super Local

Luc van Hoeckel & Pim van Baarsen, founders of Super Local and its only employees so far, in Kathmandu
The riverbed of the sacred Bagmati River, north of Kathmandu, which flows through the city / Most of its banks consist of accumulated waste that has been dumped or flushed over the years.
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The tyre-run, one of the pieces of playground equipment that Super Local designed using old car parts
The Care Collection, all of the most essential products for the hospital and operating theatre
Moses working on an ‘over bed table’ from the Care Collection
Detail of the old ambulance that Super Local positioned in the centre of the playground at an orthopaedic hospital specialising in the treatment of children
The Care Collection is made using locally available materials and techniques. “These are the tools we had available at the time... minus a bending machine that’s outside the frame of the picture.”
Plastic is sorted by a sorting company and selected according to the type and quality of the plastic.
An ancient trolley in a hospital in Thyolo / Many hospitals still use antique equipment, for lack of a better alternative and because the quality is often decent.