«A New Life in Exchange for Bottle Caps»

Natallia Kuntsevich, a vigorous and lively woman, is a lawyer by trade and a compassionate person by nature. Together with her team, Natallia took part in the Biz4all programme, with the idea changing three times throughout. As a result, during the final pitch she presented her latest idea, which was to collect plastic bottle caps, send them for recycling and then use the money to pay for treatment of critically ill children. At the end of 2017, by the Biz4all final, the team only had an idea and their passion, and by spring of 2018 they are already preparing for their project launch.


Biz4all-2 training is part of the “Social Entrepreneurship Entrepreneurship” programme, organized by ODB Brussels (Belgium) in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands) and financial support from the European Union.

Searching for ideas

Natallia describes that she applied for Biz4all with an idea to create a web platform for disabled people where they could be trained to produce craft items and sell them. The first programme modules made it obvious that the idea was too ambitious, so they had to think of something different.

Natallia Kuntsevich at the Biz4all final on 18.11.2017, Minsk

Photo: Vitaly Brazousky

“We decided then that it would be nice to open a company to deliver meal kits with produce that had been pre-processed except thermally (washed, peeled, cut, vacuum packed), and simple but delicious recipes. We did both the problem-oriented and solution-oriented interviews with our clients, compiled a lean canvas. The only problem was funding: you need to invest a lot into this business”.

Natallia, as well as her other team members, has spent a lot of time volunteering to promote social media campaigns raising money for sick children. She knows the subject matter pretty well. Surfing the web one day, she came across an article about a young man from Turkey who wanted to help disabled people purchase a wheelchair. His goal, however, was not just to collect money from people — he wanted to earn them. He organized a social campaign called “Blue Cap”, collecting plastic bottle caps and using the money to buy wheelchairs for those who approached his organization and to ask for help. In Turkey, the project helped collect more than 300 tons of plastic caps and purchase more than 1,500 wheelchairs. Natallia and her friends carefully researched this topic, and it turned out that such campaigns have been organized in many countries, including Russia and Ukraine.  

Bottle caps in exchange for money

Natallia shares her story enthusiastically: "I have a lot of friends who are environmental advocates, and they have told me that Belarus only started to recycle plastic bottle caps separately from the containers a year and a half ago. However, no one has yet begun to collect them separately. As a result, my team and I approached the project very seriously, having used all the skills received in Biz4all trainings: we created a lean canvas, did customer interviews, and the results demonstrated that we should work further”. The main social mission, aside from the obvious environmental one, is the redistribution of profits, which for the most part (up to 80%) are used to help sick children and adults who need serious treatment. The money raised with the collected recyclable materials will be sent to help Varya Litvinenka, the project’s first beneficiary. The girl suffers from spastic tetraparesis (stiffness of the upper and lower extremities) as a result of a birth trauma.

A memo for children and adults on how to collect the caps developed by the “A New Life in Exchange for Bottle Caps”

The name has already been approved and documents have been prepared for public registration as a company — Private Institution to Implement Social, Charity and Environmental Projects SocioEcoCentre”. The project has launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Talaka platform in order to raise funds to produce containers. 10 containers have already been produced, and the team has made agreements to install them in TSUM and GUM stores, “Zoogallereya” (“Zoo Gallery”) shop, “Karusel Znaniy” (“A caroussel of knowledge”), “Palisadnik” (“A Frontyard Garden”). A number of organizations, including BELAZ, Belarusian Metallurgical Plant, Belorusneft, Belshina, Mozyr Oil Refinery, Belgosstrakh and Savushkin Product, have also agreed to install containers and information about the project in their facilities.

  Natallia Kuntsevich (in the centre) at the
  final Biz4all training on 04.11.2017, Minsk

Furthermore, cooperation with the Education Department of the Administration of Moscow District of Minsk will help to install containers in kindergartens, schools, colleges and universities in the territory of the district. “In order to encourage children to take part in the fundraising acitivites, we invented Bottle Cappies — characters who became project symbols. We will provide them with small containers, so that a family could use them to collect the bottle caps and then bring recyclable materials into special containers and send them to be recycled. Thus, a monotonous task becomes a fascinating quest”.

Business based on careful calculation

How many caps do you need to provide to have an ability to provide financial help to those who needs it? According to preliminary estimates, the city rubbish dumps accumulate 800 tons of plastic caps annually. One ton consists of approximately 450,000 items, and they will be able to make money if they find a company that will buy their “rubbish” at a good price.

The initial amounts of funds raised sill be used to cover the cost of Varya Litvinenka’s treatment

Photo: talaka.org

Natallia shares financial information: during the negotiations with various waste recycling companies she found out that she could sell a ton of caps for $25 to $450. In order to get mutually acceptable conditions, you will have to try hard, but the result will worth the effort.

According to statistics, every resident of Minsk throws out almost 200 caps from water bottles, milk and dairy products, baby food, household chemicals and perfume. This unnecessary waste can easily be turned into money that can change the life of critically ill children and adults — this is what “A New Life in Exchange for Bottle Caps” does, but it cannot succeed without broad public support, so it is down to every one of us. You can take your bottle caps to the
Zoogallereya” shop, children’s centres “Karusel Znaniy”, “Palisadnik”. You can also contact the team
via social media.

The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.

The material was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.