- More than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year.
- 91% of plastic globally is not recycled.
- 90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers. Eight of those rivers are in Asia.
- If we continue to pollute at this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
- More than 3 billion people don’t have their waste collected or disposed of safely – that’s almost half the planet’s population!
- Uncollected waste has given rise to an informal waste picking economy. There are currently approximately 15 million people in low-income countries globally who work as waste pickers.
- There are 1.5 million waste pickers in India, with approximately 35,000 in Bengaluru.
- 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste are created in India every day. 40% of this remains uncollected.
I recently got to travel to India with The Body Shop (they paid for the trip) to learn more about their new Community Trade initiative in Bengaluru, India. It was an incredibly eye-opening look at the not only the volume of waste that we are consuming but the impact it is having on people that live there.
I’ve talked about the impact of plastic on the planet many times on The Eco Hub, but this story is a little different.
I was touched and brought to tears many times on this trip and really was so impressed with the work The Body Shop is doing.
They have some amazing community trade partners all over the world and I think this one is going to have an unbelievable impact on a group of people known as waste pickers.
Make sure you watch the video above to see the impact waste pickers are having on the environment and the impact this new program with The Body Shop is having on them.
One of the most surprising things I learned on this trip is that when it comes to plastic, there are real solutions that can be put in place to help reduce the amount that we are using.
And it doesn’t start in your local blue bin program, it’s much bigger than that! It starts with design and manufacturing.
You see big companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle (to name a few) keep making fossil fuel (virgin) plastic instead of recycling or reusing the plastic that already exists in the environment.
Fossil fuel plastic is extracted from deep in the earth’s crust, its ancient dinosaur carbon, then it’s taken and made into virgin plastic at processing facilities, so it uses a lot of energy and co2 emissions to make virgin plastic. Whereas recycled plastic we just get it from communities and it makes much more sense to recycle the stuff that has already been created rather than extracting more.
Globally there are 3 billion people who don’t have the proper waste management systems we take for granted in more developed countries, so the core way of addressing that problem is we need to create markets for the plastic, and create the demand and create the value from it, because if it’s valuable and it’s economically viable to recycle then we can bring recycling systems to communities where the systems are not quite developed yet, so bringing the recycling equipment and investing in units like the ones you see in the video, to get the collection in place is really the crux on how you reduce the core issues underlying the plastic pollution crises we are faced with today.
Recycling plastic is actually big business. There is a demand for it in countries like India where waste pickers are the only formal waste system in place.
In Bengaluru, the population has doubled in 10 years and will double again by 2030, combine that with a 10% consumption growth of plastic means that the scale of the problem is growing much quicker than the government can keep up in terms of supporting the infrastructure development.
Waste pickers play a crucial role in reducing waste and with 1.5 million of them in India, they are a really Green Force.
For women like Dolly, this kind of circular economy is critical to her survival. She relies on plastic to live.
The program that’s set up between Hasiru Dala, a local NGO and a new kid on the block, Plastics For Change, which recently became the first fairly traded plastic in the industry today (hooray) and The Body Shop is one based on a circular economy using recycled plastic.
We must break the cycle of plastic pollution and poverty by changing the recycling system. Through our years of operation, Plastics For Change has achieved the following.
- 2-3 tonnes of CO2 saved for every tonne of virgin (fossil fuel) plastic
- Certified under the World Fair Trade Organisation for fair prices and work practices
- Diverting plastic from the ocean and preventing environmental contamination
- Recycled India’s first food-grade PET safe for food packaging
- Providing recycling equipment/infrastructure for high poverty regions in India
- Transitioned The Body Shop packaging supply chains to fairly traded plastic
In addition to the above, this program gives the most marginalized women a voice and the chance to become entrepreneurs in an industry that is dominated by men. The ultimate goal is to help break the cycle of poverty for millions around the world.
What do you think of this community trade program? I’d love to know your thoughts.