Developing regions rarely have access to waste management, meaning high levels of plastic pollution and terrible recycling rates. These same areas often have chronic unemployment, but some inhabitants earn a meagre living as urban waste pickers. The pickers play a critical role in cleaning up the cities by collecting and selling plastic waste, but they receive very small fees for their service, since prices are dictated by exporters and middlemen. Now, Canadian start-up Plastics for Change is shaking up the system, using mobile technology to create a fair trade model, which will enable waste pickers to earn fair prices for the plastic they collect.
Modeled on the fair trade agriculture movement, Plastics For Change essentially connects waste pickers more directly with environmentally responsible companies, who are keen to use the ethically sourced recycled plastics in their product lines. The system uses mobile technology to increase trust and transparency through the supply chain and ensure waste pickers receive a fair price for the plastics they have collected. In doing so they can simultaneously improve the living standards of many unemployed people in developing regions and increase the value of recycling discarded waste, in order to discourage the use of virgin plastic.
Plastics For Change recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, in order to raise funds to implement and grow the initiative in numerous communities in India. Are there other undervalued services that could be developed in this way?