Interview with Éric Brac de La Perrière, Founder and President of Yoyo

Interview avec Éric Brac de La Perrière, Founder and President of Yoyo

How did the idea for Yoyo come about?

On my travels in emerging countries, especially Egypt and Myanmar, I discovered that collecting litter lying around is remunerated via informal networks of waste pickers. I thought to myself that if we could scale up and digitalize this system, we would greatly increase cities’ waste-sorting performance. I consume, I collect: the Yoyo effect!

Why count on waste sorting?

Because recycling is first and foremost a question of collection, rather than an industrial or technological issue. We are not managing to recover recyclable materials in places where we consume a lot. The city is the place where we consume the most and recycle the least, due to an inefficient collection rate. So the challenge — for all the world’s cities! — is to increase the volume of waste collected in order to increase the volume recycled and thus boost the performance of the circular economy. If this initial sorting step by the consumer doesn’t happen, everything is more expensive, everything takes longer, and everything pollutes more.

Why did you launch the initiative in Bordeaux and Lyon?

I’m originally from Lyon, but above all the cities of Lyon and Bordeaux were highly motivated to try to improve their performance. They each immediately entrusted us with very specific neighborhoods where waste sorting wasn’t working very well. We set up the reward system and within a year we doubled the performance of the households who signed up for the Yoyo scheme. Today, several thousand people sort their waste with Yoyo and the recycled waste rate has leaped from 10 to 90%. So it’s possible, provided that you work with residents in a positive and ongoing relationship.

How does the start-up work?

We decided to set up drop-off points in areas of 10,000 inhabitants to build a closer everyday relationship via a tight network in each area, where coaches give very simple sorting instructions and check that they have been properly understood. We also work with local associations so that families can access sorting guidelines in their own language. And for those with little, if any, access to digital technology, we work with Emmaüs Connect to bridge the digital divide and help them download the app on their smartphone and thus credit them with reward points.

What added value do you bring?

It goes without saying that we deliver performance in terms of waste collection and raising environmental awareness, but we also strengthen social ties. People meet and interact. Yoyo also works alongside local authorities: thanks to the increased tonnage collected with Yoyo, they receive more subsidies from eco-organizations. This ensures a boosted circular economy at no extra cost to them.

Finally, with the Yoyo system, citizens are involved in achieving a better collection performance. As they sort more and more effectively, they are rewarded and pass on the message to those around them. Besides, in the neighborhoods where we are active, we see that their participation not only increases the local authority’s percentages, but also the volume in the recycling bin by around 15%.

How was the partnership with Veolia established?

We have shared interests, whether combating pollution or increasing urban waste collection. This very naturally led us to outline a waste-sorting project together; Veolia’s teams in charge of waste collection gave us a real hand to make it easier for us to set up in the neighborhoods. Not forgetting that we benefit from all Veolia’s expertise: baling, calculating costs, defining the best logistics channels, etc.

What is your vision for the future?

At the moment, we are considering with Veolia how to duplicate the Yoyo system across France. After working closely on the two cities of Lyon and Bordeaux, our aim is to roll out the scheme in 10 cities by the end of 2018, 30 by the end of 2019 and 50 by the end of 2020.

In short, Yoyo provides two-tier help: to catch up and to accelerate and reach 100%. It’s the tool you need to move from 3% annual growth in recycling in France to the 20% required in order to meet the regulatory targets!