Changing Lives Through Recycling: A Progress Update From India

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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.

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