Diana Bletter
March 6, 2023

Trash is just trash to most people. But to Gal Lahat and Adam Ran, founder and cofounder of the CleanCoin app, trash is a way for people to earn money — and make the world a cleaner place.

The one-year-old app unites thousands of users in crowd cleaning, a game-like activity of mapping trash, picking it up, and transporting it.

Users get paid in CleanCoin points that they can redeem for products or discounts.

CleanCoin has raised $1 million in seed money, and the company will soon hold another round to raise $5 million.

There are close to 100,000 users in Israel, and CleanCoin already has partners to develop it in Canada, New York and the United Kingdom.

Users in Europe are translating the app to their native languages, Ran said, and the company is now working with a supermarket franchise in Austria to handle its food waste.

“Right now, 70 percent of fruits and vegetables are being thrown away while people go hungry,” Ran said. “Our app will display where there is surplus food and people can go pick it up.”

Document it and get rewarded

The app proves that cleaning up litter can be a group effort.

Someone spots trash in Haifa, let’s say, and reports it on CleanCoin the way someone reports a traffic jam on Waze. The first person can clean it up, or leave it for other people who want to come clean it.

Whoever responds takes photographs of the “before and after” trash pickup, documenting where they brought the trash.

Crowd-cleaning app pays people to pick up litter
CleanCoin beach cleanup sponsored by AWS Amazon Israel. Photo courtesy of CleanCoin

CleanCoin’s AI system verifies the information to prevent fraud, and determines how many points get awarded.

People can earn approximately 10 shekels for one bag of trash, which might take a few minutes to fill, Lahat says.

The points they collect for each bag can be redeemed for a free stay at an Abraham Hostel, for example, or Billabong clothing. CleanCoin has already signed on 60 businesses in Israel, including InventTech, TrekMarket, Aroma coffee shops and Azrieli.com.

Crowd-cleaning app pays people to pick up litter
Screenshots courtesy of CleanCoin

Ran said that one woman who uses the app now gets lots of discounts on food for her family at the healthfood store chain Nitzat HaDuvdavan (Cherry Blossom). CleanCoin is now negotiating deals with travel companies and surf clubs.

Ran said that in the future, users will be able to take money from their CleanCoin wallet and transfer it directly to their bank account.

Trash is like money

Lahat, CleanCoin’s CTO, wrote his first gaming app when he was 12. He always loved going on nature treks with his family, still enjoys kayaking and cliff-hanging and says his “ideal landscape includes both the sea and the mountains.”

It upsets him, he said, to see the “massive amounts of trash that find their way into nature.” So he combined his love for gaming with his love of coding and his passion for the environment.

“I realized there was very little innovation focused on solving the world’s biggest problems,” Lahat says. “CleanCoin is a gamified app for managing trash that can be a gamechanger for the environment.”

International companies are signing on to be CleanCoin partners because it’s “immediate green branding,” Ran said.

Today’s customers “want to buy products from companies that are ethical and are part of the solution.”

Ran met Lahat in February 2020, at Inventech in Haifa. (The city is now one of CleanCoin’s sponsors.)

Crowd-cleaning app pays people to pick up litter
Adam Ran, left, CEO and cofounder of CleanCoin with Gal Lahat, CTO and cofounder. Photo courtesy of CleanCoin

They were both concerned about ecology and wanted to make an app that would “serve as an incentive for people to get involved in the environment and earn money at the same time,” Ran said.

If recycling corporations can make money on trash, why can’t private citizens?

“All around the world, trash is like money just there on the ground,” Ran said.

Crowd-cleaning app pays people to pick up litter
CleanCoin rewards users for picking up litter. Image courtesy of CleanCoin

Everyone can help

Rotem Ben-Eli, 20, who starts work soon as a flight attendant on El Al, signed up for CleanCoin about eight months ago after learning about it on Instagram.

A resident of Ashdod, she said she now uses CleanCoin “whenever I get a chance.”

Ben-Eli said she always loved nature. In her youth Scouting movement, “my counselors taught me the importance of keeping the Earth clean.” It bothered her when she would go on a hike with her friends and they littered.

“I started picking up snack bags and bottles on my own,” Ben-Eli said.

Now, she gets rewards for her efforts. She loves getting discounts through CleanCoin at Aroma and has also received cosmetics products. Ben-Eli said she has convinced her younger sister to join in. When they go on hikes, the sisters will stop to pick up trash, photograph their results and earn points.

She said she’s learned another surprising thing since using CleanCoin. She has a “newfound connection with people who pick up trash on the street.”

“I always used to feel sorry for them,” Ben-Eli said. “But now I see that everyone can join in and help.”

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