So what does it mean to go #PlasticNeutral? Just like offsetting your carbon footprint, finally there is a way to offset your plastic footprint. Using our plastic footprint calculator, we work out your average yearly consumption of plastic. To offset the plastic bottles, toothbrushes, and take-out containers, we have partnered with three phenomenal waste management organizations – Saahas Zero Waste, Aasra Welfare Association, and Waste Ventures India – to offset the volume equivalent of your plastic consumption while empowering marginalized waste workers. Our unique proprietary measurement tool also helps you better understand your plastic consumption. But why should you go #PlasticNeutral?
Reason 1: #reBalance the global climate of recycling
How did we get to the point where when we recycle a plastic bottle, it is more likely to travel over 10,000 kilometers across entire continents than for it to be recycled in its own country? For more than 25 years, countries in the Global North like the US, Canada, and the UK have been shipping their plastic waste to Asian countries in the Global South, who choose to process our waste over their own country’s because it is more economically profitable. In fact, in 2018 alone, the United States shipped over 78% of its plastic waste to countries such as India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia to be recycled. The irony of it all is that the bulk of our trash goes to the places that have the least developed waste management systems in the world.
In South Asia and Southeast Asia specifically, the waste management sector is primarily made up of informal waste workers. In India, over one million of these waste pickers, or “kabadiwalas”, live and work within landfills and dumping grounds in order to salvage plastics, metals, glass, and cardboard–with an average income of $1.50-$3.00/day. They sell back what is collected to processing facilities and give these materials their only chance for a second life.
In order to rebalance this stark disorder, going #PlasticNeutral helps to establish a more equitable, responsible, and effective global waste system. Your reBalance payment supports waste management organizations in India who are collecting, segregating, cleaning and processing the volume of plastic equivalent to your plastic footprint and are ensuring that it gets efficiently recycled while also empowering waste workers.
Reason 2: Recover the plastics that would have never been saved
When a waste worker has the choice between picking up a plastic water bottle or a chip bag, she will always choose the bottle. In fact, waste pickers will always collect plastics such as PET or HDPE (think soda bottles and milk jugs) over other plastics because they have the most value. Other plastics such as multilayer plastics (think chip bags and wrappers) and polystyrene (think styrofoam) are the least likely to be picked up because they have an extremely low weight and the lowest value per kg, which adds ups to streets being littered with Snickers wrappers and the packing peanuts of someone’s latest Amazon Prime order.
MLPs, or multilayer plastics, and polystyrene are piling high in Indian landfills and flooding our water bodies at an alarming rate. Nobody wants to pick up these plastics, and no recycling facility wants to take them in. For this reason, when you offset your plastic footprint, we decided to only collect and recycle the plastics that would have never been saved.
We offset the volume equivalent of your plastic footprint in MLP and polystyrene plastic. These plastics are collected and then sent to a recovery facility to be co-processed. Co-processing is using plastic waste as a power source for energy intensive industries such as cement, lime, steel, glass, and power generation. These industries typically use coal as their primary source of energy; however, we offset this coal by using plastic waste as a viable substitute. This way it’s a win-win: the plastics are cleanly co-processed for power generation and the amount of coal extracted and incinerated by that industry is reduced significantly.
Reason 3: Empower one of the most marginalized groups in South Asia
Waste workers play a significant role in the recycling industry in India. Because of waste workers, India has one of the highest recycling rates of PET plastic at 70%. However, despite these workers being the underground, environmental heroes of today, India’s ragpickers continue to struggle to meet even their most basic of needs. From their work, they are exposed daily to harmful substances, earn poor wages, and lack basic civic amenities. In their work, they are often exploited by more powerful players higher up the value chain, which limits their access to fair wages. Many live within the grounds of the landfill or on the outskirts in slums and struggle for basic sanitation, water supply, and electricity. These neighborhoods are typically unauthorised settlements that are not recognized by the local government and therefore do not get access to the city’s basic services.
However, through the rePurpose platform, we work with organizations who rescue waste scavengers from these dangerous working conditions and offer them more secure, and financially stable jobs in the formal waste management sector. They are given fair wages, safer working conditions, and contracts to prevent any means of exploitation.
Reason 4: Build an ecosystem of circular economy
When you go #PlasticNeutral, plastics are closed back into the loop. Low value plastics like MLPs and polystyrene re-enter the production cycle while more coal is kicked out. Finding outlets for plastic waste through reusing, recycling and redesigning is our mission. This is how we see it: for every toothpaste container that re-enters the cycle, that is one less container buried in a landfill, burned in an incineration, or floating into the ocean.
We believe that circular economy is the way for the future. Therefore, we are also working with brands with the aim of redesigning packaging, and with governments on legislative changes, to reduce plastic production at source. We are creating a Circular Economy Innovation Lab in collaboration with FMCG companies to identify sustainable packaging solutions, innovative circular business models, and recycling technologies that aim to reduce post-consumer waste and design out plastic all together.
Reason 5: Contribute to a more sustainable future for all
Going #PlasticNeutral is all about future thinking. We are rebalancing the global plastic climate, giving “lost-case” plastics new life, empowering the workers of today for their children tomorrow, and building a platform for innovative green technology to redesign our linear economy into a cyclical one. But we also dare you to take one step further:
In neutralizing your plastic footprint, you offset the plastics that you have created today, but we challenge you to rethink the plastics that you will generate tomorrow. We will give you customized, conscious living tips for reducing your plastic footprint and living an increasingly sustainable life. The plastic bottle starts with us: when we refuse disposable plastics and opt for reducing our waste in the first place, we begin catalyzing change in industries, innovations, and the environment.
So join the movement. Encourage your friends, family, workplace or school to go #PlasticNeutral and reshape the current socioeconomic and environmental climate around plastic.