The list of errands some delivery apps can do for you has become so long, it can be described as inconvenient. Scrolling through the home screen of Rappi’s Mexican app is particularly confusing. Born as a food delivery service in 2016, the Colombian company, valued above $5 billion, now has features like credit cards, loans, plane tickets, and hotel bookings. A Rappi delivery person will rush to the ATM and get you cash if you need it.
It’s not a strange decision from a business perspective. Food delivery apps are rarely profitable, and e-commerce and startup insiders tell me that Rappi, backed by hefty investors like SoftBank, keeps trying to grow its sources of revenue, including an Amazon-inspired in-app advertising business. As a result, its service catalog has grown: The more available on the platform, the better for Rappi — and, the company would have us believe, the better for the consumers, too.
“Do you want us to buy something from Zara for you?” the app once asked me. Another time, it specifically offered to pick up my recyclables at no cost.
This last service piqued my interest, especially because it was advertised as free. “Join #AWorldWithoutWaste with Rappi and Coca-Cola Mexico!” the option read before indicating collection days and types of recyclable materials. About 10,000 people in Mexico City make a living by separating, cleaning, and selling recyclable materials to big recycling plants. They’re either individuals going through public trash cans or small businesses that charge a fee for picking up recyclables at home.
If someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure, surely Rappi and Coca-Cola aren’t in this for free. Turns out, the rewards these massive corporations obtain for doing such seemingly charitable activities are not immediately evident to those browsing Rappi’s convenience catalog.
Small recycling collectives and waste management experts told me big corporations like Coca-Cola need to prove they’ve recycled a certain amount of material to meet the standards necessary to get environmental certifications by the government or international watchdogs. It makes sense, then, that the partnership is helping Coca-Cola gather more recyclables and making Rappi look eco-friendly on the beverage company’s dime.
Hyped campaigns like this one are built to look good to the customer — without benefiting Rappi’s third-party delivery workers since they’re not the ones picking up the recyclables booked through the app; an external recycling organization paid by Coca-Cola does that. Meanwhile, Omar Jiménez, a waste management expert, told me this campaign could negatively affect the people who make a living from collecting and selling recyclables.
Coca-Cola says the program is only a pilot running in a few neighborhoods in Mexico City, so it might end up just being a PR stunt passing through Rappi’s long list of additional services.