Journey of Plastic for Change & Hasiru Dala to reform the informal waste sector begins!
In the last 11 months the wastepickers in Bangalore have suffered a 60% drop in the price for the plastic bottles and other products they collect. The value of recycled plastic has plummeted because of the low prices of crude oil, which makes virgin plastic cheaper for companies to use rather than recycled. The low price has resulted in less plastic being fed into the supply chain by the wastepickers, therefore, the godowns and processing facilities are closing down. Another consequence is that large chunks of plastics material which was sent for recycling is lying across the city as waste or adding load to already full and contested dump- yards. A lot of it can be attributed to crude oil prices and importantly, lack of awareness about the benefits of using recycled products. Building an ethical supply chain for plastic waste recycling and ensuring that fluctuations in crude oil prices don’t impact much on wastepickers and other recyclers, by creating awareness about the advantages of using recycled plastic in big known brands is the purpose of existence of ‘Plastic for Change’.
After six consecutive airplane meals I arrived at the Bangalore’s Kempegowda 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 I met up with Sanjay Gupta and together we visited the Hasiru Dala office to co-design the implementation strategy.
To gain a firsthand perspective of the situation in recycling market, 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 challenges faced at each level of the supply chain provided helpful insight to validate the design of the 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 is 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 may come on board and agree to pay fair market prices in advance will be able to use this environmentally and socially responsible source of recycled plastic in their manufacturing. This will help them to earn good will of consumers and ensure that the loops around plastic waste are closed. Better for the economy with low demand for petroleum to manufacture plastic products, increased income for waste-pickers, cleaner and greener cities, reduction in carbon emissions with the increased usage of recycled material.
The deal process is currently underway, with plans to scale the initiative to provide additional wastepickers with fair market access. More is on the way, and you can check www.plasticsforchange.org for updates!