City's plastic waste helps package global brands

Women waste pickers at a Dry Waste Collection Centre in Bengaluru.

Can plastic waste from Bengaluru be recycled for packaging products of global brands sold in the international market?

This is precisely what a city-based waste management startup is doing through their Fair Trade Plastics Recycling initiative.

To push the idea, the social enterprise, Hasiru Dala Innovations that works on creating better livelihoods for waste pickers, has tied up with The Body Shop, the global personal care brand, and Plastics for Change, a Canadian firm.

Here’s how it works: Hasiru Dala Innovations aggregates PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic at its centre, sourcing it from a network of waste picker entrepreneurs, Dry Waste Collection Centres (DWCCs) and scrap dealers at a fair price.

The startup’s aggregation centre further sorts and bales the PET plastic to The Body Shop. Hasiru Dala says its centre is audited by the World Fair Trade Organisation for compliance with its standards. The Plastics for Change has a mobile app to ensure traceability and transparency in the supply chain.

Hasiru Dala Innovations says the startup’s co-founder Shekhar Prabhakar, has so far exported 64 metric tonnes of PET plastic waste to The Body Shop’s recycler in the Netherlands. This has been cycled to food grade PET, which in India would have been down-cycled to polyester yarn.

To mark the Fair Trade Plastics Recycling initiative, a four-metre high 3D installation of the startup’s waste picker from Bengaluru is being set up at London’s busy Borough food market. The installation has been created with the plastic collected and exported by the startup.

The installation puts a human face to the plastic solution. As the startup founders say, it is a reminder of the critical role played by the informal waste sector in being the first line of defence on the burgeoning plastic pollution crisis.

A former waste picker, Annamma, now working as a DWCC operator in the city, puts the informal sector’s role in perspective talking about her own experience.

‘Physically demanding;

“I have been picking waste for around 30 years, since I was a child. It is really tough and physically demanding. Waste pickers face all kinds of hardships, including harassment, late payments and health issues,” explains Annamma. 

Yet, through waste picking she managed to raise a family and send her children to college. “I am really proud of what I do. I believe we play a very important role in keeping cities clean and helping to recycle the huge amounts of plastic waste that the society produces,” she elaborates.

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