Here are the top six factors inhibiting the circular economy in developing regions. We’ve compiled these factors from listening to the members of the informal recycling economy. After all, in developing countries 80-90 percent of the recycling activities are informal.
Plastics for Change worked closely with The Ocean Conservancy, The Closed Loop Fund, Encourage Capital, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) & Waste2Worth Innovations to co-author the research report: THE NEXT WAVE Investment Strategies for Plastic Free Seas. The goal of this APEC sponsored initiative is to sustainably reduce the amount of plastic waste leaking into the ocean annually by 50% by 2025
This year, Plastics for Change was recognized as a finalist for the SEED Awards in Delhi, India. The SEED Awards were established by the UNEP and UNDP to promote progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through eco-inclusive entrepreneurship.
In September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goals , otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
The private sector now has a unique opportunity to embrace this new global development agenda and recognise it as a driver of business strategies, innovation and investment decisions.
Participating companies are now able to leverage collaborations and technology to create an impact at a scale that has never before been possible and in turn, utilize the SDG model to gain an edge over their competitors the global marketplace.
An inspiring example of progress towards the SDGs is the mobile platform M-Pesa, which is now providing a variety of financial inclusion services to more than 25 million people in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Although hundreds of millions of people have emerged from poverty into the global middle-class during the last decade, there is still much process to be made.
An estimated 4.5 billion people in the world are at “the bottom of the pyramid” (those who live on $5 per day or less). Businesses should view these people as producers and consumers of products, rather than as mere beneficiaries of charity. They represent a projected $15 trillion economy, which is poised to expand.
According to Unilever’s CEO, Paul Polman, the SDGs offer the “greatest economic opportunity of a lifetime” as a global initiative.
India has the largest number of poor people in the world. Poverty and social exclusion has its roots in historical divisions along lines of caste, tribe, and gender. These culturally rooted systems are perpetuating the inequality.
To address these social issues, the Indian Government has mandated that large organisations to contribute at least 2% of their annual net profit towards corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The following diagram illustrates how Plastics for Change contributes towards the sustainable development goals. We work with brands to immediately improve the social and environmental impact of their products, while increasing the value of their goods to today’s conscious consumers. To inquire about using this ethically sourced plastic please Click here.
Through Plastics for Change, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with dozens of global brands. The companies who are leading in sustainability are the companies who have found a way to integrate their sustainability efforts into their culture. This integrated approach creates a culture of purpose oriented employees. People want to show up to work and know that they are contributing to a greater purpose than simply maximizing shareholder wealth.
By 2025 the millennial generation will become 75 percent of the global workforce.
42% millennials (Gen Y) now want to work for an organization that has a positive impact on the world. Implementing a sustainability strategy is essential for attracting and retaining employees.
How can leaders activate their brand’s purpose?
Purpose driven leaders make an authentic connection between every employee’s role and the company’s larger purpose.
Plastics for Change makes this connection explicit and visible for brands. We share the story and measurable impact generated from each product that uses our ethically sourced recycled plastic.
Employees can hold a Plastics for Change product line in their hands and access information about the positive social and environmental impact they helped to create. Our goals is to have every employee know how her/his job is related to the overarching purpose of the company.
Words may inspire but only action creates change. Learn more about how Plastics for Change can help activate your brand’s purpose, click here.
In the last ten years humanity has created more plastic than in all the previous years of civilization combined. Our consumption of plastic continues to grow, especially in developing markets where waste management infrastructure cannot keep up with consumption. The next ten years will be the most important time to take action, as the decision society makes toward addressing waste managing will impact climate change but also, ocean plastic leakage and the livelihoods of millions of marginalized people at the base of the recycling supply chain.
India has 1.5 million waste pickers who make a living by picking up and recycling discarded plastics. In the last year they have suffered a 60% drop in the price they receive for the plastic they collect. (PET in Bangalore) The value of recycled plastic has plummeted because low oil prices has made it cheaper for companies to use virgin plastic rather than recycled. The low demand for recycled plastic is having a crippling impact on the development recycling infrastructure globally.This is resulting in both an environmental disaster and humanitarian tragedy. Waste pickers often have barriers to formal employment so when they are unable to make a living from recycling there is no safety net for them to rely on.
The low price results in less waste pickers feeding plastic into the supply chain, therefore the middlemen and processing facilities are closing down.With limited markets to create value from plastic, the waste often ends up being dumped out of sight out of mind. As a further environmental consequence, replacing the use of recycled plastic with virgin plastic results in approximately 2-3 times greater C02 emissions, further accelerating climate change.
To address this problem Plastics For Change has developed a deal process and mobile platform to create markets for the recycled plastics and to revitalize the recycling infrastructure.The platform creates transparency and accountability through the supply chain to ensure that those at the base receive a fair price for the plastic they collect. Supporting these dignified jobs and increasing recycling rates benefits everyone through the supply chain.
Companies who agree to pay fair market prices in advance may use this environmentally and socially responsible plastic in their manufacturing.
The initiative is being launched with Hasiru Dala in in Bangalore with plans to scale the platform to create positive change globally.
After six consecutive airplane meals, I arrived at the Bangalore International Airport. I had big plans for this trip to India.165 contributors from 26 different countries had backed the Plastics For Change Indiegogo campaign to help implement an ethical sourcing platform for the plastics supply chain. It had taken countless hours of research and development to design the mobile platform and deal process for providing urban wastepickers with fair prices. Now it was time to put all this hard work to good use and implement the mobile technology.
In a rather delirious state from the jet lag, I made my way through the bustling city to my hotel to get some rest. The next day I met up with Sanjay Gupta and together we visited the Hasiru Dala office to co-design the implementation strategy.
In the last 11 months the wastepickers in Bangalore have suffered a 60% drop in the price they receive for the plastic bottles they collect. The value of recycled plastic has plummeted because the low price of oil has made it cheaper for companies to use virgin plastic rather than recycled. The low price has resulted in less wastepickers feeding plastic into the supply chain, therefore the middlemen and processing facilities are closing down.
To gain a firsthand perspective of the situation, I accompanied the Hasiru Dala team to learn from the wastepickers, dry waste collection centers, scrap shops and wholesalers in the community. Listening to the problems faced at each level of the supply chain provided helpful insight to validate the design of our ethical sourcing platform. Witnessing the current struggles in the supply chain made me even more motivated to create markets for the recycled plastics and to help revitalize the recycling infrastructure.
The ethical sourcing platform was designed to connect all levels of the supply chain in a mutually beneficial deal process. This deal process builds trust and accountability through the supply chain to ensure that that those at the base of the supply chain receive a fair price for the plastic they collect. Providing fair market access to Bangalore’s wastepickers will help increase recycling rates and benefit everyone through the supply chain.
Brands and manufacturers who agree to pay fair market prices in advance may use this environmentally and socially responsible source of recycled plastic in their manufacturing.
To engage the members of the supply chain, a workshop was hosted at the Hasiru Dala office. The pilot project was designed to create a win-win for all participants. The deal process is currently underway, with plans to scale the initiative to provide additional wastepickers with fair market prices for the discarded plastics they collect.
Two of the biggest threats facing our marine eco-systems come from ocean acidification and plastic pollution. But, are these problems interrelated? And if so how can we fight the both threats at the same time?
The evil twin of climate changes is ocean acidification. The more carbon emissions the ocean absorbs the more acidic it becomes. We really have no idea just how devastating this change in acidity level will be in the future.
You can think of plastics pollution as an equally evil nephew of climate change. This problem is most severe in developing countries that lack recycling infrastructure. It is common in many parts of the world for plastic to be dumped into our oceans and rivers. But how is plastic waste related to climate change?
Fighting climate change and plastic pollution through recycling.
The fall of oil prices has made it cheaper for companies to use virgin plastic (new plastic from oil) rather than recycled plastic. The decreased demand for recycled plastic has had a detrimental impact on the development of recycling infrastructure, especially in high poverty regions. The low demand for the recycled plastic is killing jobs for urban waste pickers and leads to increased levels of environmental contamination. India alone relies on 1.5 million waste pickers who make a living from collecting discarded plastics.
The increased production of new virgin plastic is accelerating Co2 emissions. Approximately around 8% of the world’s annual oil supply goes to the production of plastic, 4% of which is actually used in energy consumption to make the plastic. This equals over 7 million barrels of oil a day or one Olympic size swimming pool every 4 minutes. To put this in perceptive, it takes about 1/4 of a liter of oil to produce a 1 liter water bottle.
Changing lives through fair trade recycling.
Plastics For Change has developed a model for addressing the root cause of plastic pollution while creating jobs through recycling.
The organization has developed a fair trade transaction platform for the plastic recycling supply chain in developing counties which ensures waste picker recyclers receive a fair monetary value for the discarded plastic they collect.
Simply put, increasing the value of discarded plastics helps prevent environmental contamination, boosts global recycling rates and creates dignified employment to reduce extreme poverty. Management estimates that recycling one ton of plastics saves 16.3 barrels (685 gallons) of oil and 98 million Btu's of energy. To prevent ocean acidity and global warning we must take massive action curb emissions. There is a huge potential to do this through recycling. Please share if you agree.
One morning in Bangalore, I decided to skip breakfast and see how long it would take as a wastepicker before I could afford to eat. It was shocking to notice the immediate way people's behaviour changed once they saw me as a wastepicker. Security at the park that I visited just days earlier would no longer let me in now that I was wastepicking. The experience gave me a new found respect for the informal recyclers who help keep our cities clean.
After 3 hours and being harassed by more security guards, I only had a few KGs of plastic. In Bangalore, the price wastepickers receive for P.E.T. has fallen 60% in the last year. Which means all the plastic I collected would not be enough to put food on the table for a family.
I'm now even more motivated to help companies which from using virgin plastic to recycled plastic. In addition to the environmental benefits, increasing the demand for recycled plastic also helps increase the income received by wastepickers.
Creating positive change through social, environmental and financial impact. Social Responsibility
Mahatma Gandhi once said “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
With today’s pressing environmental issues, there is certainly no shortage of work that needs to be done. Creating dignified employment to combat environmental issues is important from a sustainable perspective, but supporting green jobs for people who face extreme barriers to employment also reduces desperation, violence and crime.
The fall in oil prices has made using virgin plastic cheaper than recycled. As a result brands are switching towards to using virgin plastic in their manufacturing. Thus, the demand for recycled plastic has plummeted, resulting in a dramatic fall to the price that the waste pickers receive for the discarded plastics they collect. This is a tragedy that is affecting millions of the poorest people on our planet, but one that has gone almost completely unnoticed! Creating stable and dignified employment through fair trade recycling is needed now more than ever.
Increasing recycling rates in developing countries should be a priority of addressing climate change. According to recycling expert Dr Mike Biddle, for every ton of virgin plastic that is replaced with recycled plastic, it saves 2-3-tons of Co2. Most developing countries have dismal recycling rates of between 2-8%. Imagine the job creation and Co2 savings that would result if these rates reached double digits.
Having a self sustaining business model is the engine that drives our impact. Originally Plastics For Change was a non-profit, but we re-incorporated as a For Profit to create a revenue generating business that can be highly scalable. To address societies biggest problems we need to create financially sustainable, scalable and systemic solutions.
To learn more about our triple bottom line please visit our campaign.
The problem Imagine you returned home and discovered your house was flooding. As you frantically try to figure out what to do, you discover you left your kitchen sink running, it overflowed, and is drowning the rest of the house. Now think to yourself, what would you do? Run for the mop to start cleaning up the mess? Or, turn the kitchen sink off?
It’s no different in the ocean. Our oceans are being inundated with plastic; from large nylon nets to microplastic bits, plastics of every type and size are impacting every oceanic ecosystem. Yet projects to date are working to “mop up” the mess before they turn off the kitchen sink. While plastic collection arrays and beach clean ups are effective, they will never succeed in cleaning up the oceans because they are not doing anything to keep more and more plastic from entering the oceans. They are working on cleaning up the mess of plastics in the ocean without addressing or fixing the root of the problem.
Turning off the faucet
In a recent paper published in Science, Dr. Jenna Jambeck and her team determined that the vast majority of plastic entering the oceans is coming from South East Asian countries where there increasing population is outgrowing the current waste management infrastructure. This leads to an incredible amount of “mismanaged plastic waste” that ends up on the streets, rivers, and, ultimately, the ocean. The large developed countries we think of as the main plastic consumers have better waste management systems in place, which reduces their overall mismanaged plastic waste that ends up in the ocean, but it does not stop it completely.
Taking Action where it matters most.
We found the “kitchen sink” for the plastic problem in the ocean, now it is time to act.
That’s where we come in. Rather than spending time and money trying to collect plastics from the ocean, Plastics for Change takes an upstream approach and tries to get to the plastics before they ever become a problem in the ocean. By promoting more efficient and thorough waste management systems in the countries that need the most help; we aim to keep tons and tons of plastics from ever entering the oceans.
We are turning off the kitchen sink on the plastic problem, will you join us?
For more information on how to help check out http://plasticsforchange.org/
Millions of people in developing countries rely on collecting waste plastics as their primary source of income. Yet these recyclers only receive 5% of the industry profits. The low value of plastic leads to irresponsible disposal and environmental contamination. Our open book trading system connects these recyclers directly with commercial buyers who pay a fair trade price for the plastic. This helps to reduce poverty levels and increase recycling rates.
Picture Yasbel, a single mother of 3 living on less than $2 a day in a rural village in India. With limited opportunity for employment she provides for her family by collecting discarded plastics.
Being a recycler can be difficult. In her village, a buyer of the plastic comes once a week with a truck. Since there is only one buyer, Yasbel has very little negotiating power over the price she receives for the collected plastic. The price of plastic is so low in her village, that often plastic waste is racked up and burnt or dumped directly into the river.
All that will change when the recyclers in her community are introduced to Plastics For Change™. Using the transparent, open book trading system we anticipate Yasbel will be able to dramatically increase her income. The recyclers will have competitive paying jobs to provide for their families by cleaning up the streets and helping to reduce the amount of plastic entering the water canals. When the plastic is seen as a valuable resource rather than garbage, it will start to disappear from the otherwise beautiful landscapes and rivers of India.
Yasbel is just one of millions in her country that makes her primary household income from recycling. Yet only 5-10% of plastics are recycled globally. We need to make the plastics more valuable for those at the base of the recycling pyramid. We can use this discarded resource to reduce poverty and create change.