Women Waste Collectors
In developing countries where the most impoverished people live alongside garbage heaps and landfills, many earn livings as waste collectors. Although women waste collectors significantly outnumber male waste collectors, they face inequalities and disproportionate economic and health impacts in comparison to their male counterparts.

Plastic Waste Exports to Developing Countries

Wealthy countries often export their plastic waste to developing countries. The United States shipped close to “1.5 billion pounds of plastic waste to 95 countries” in 2019 alone. Developing countries welcome this waste as these nations receive trade incentives for accepting plastic waste exports from other countries. Plastic waste, therefore, stands as a source of income and a way to ease the suffering of a country’s most impoverished populations.

However, many developing countries lack the facilities and recycling programs to manage plastic waste effectively. The consequence is that the waste piles up and pollutes the surrounding environment. Individuals also resort to burning the waste, a practice that emits harmful dioxins into the air.

The environmental and health consequences of plastic waste disproportionately impact people who live and work in or around plastic waste dumps. In many countries, the informal waste collecting industry goes unregulated because they do not recognize waste-collecting as official employment. Because of this, there are often no protocols in place to ensure that waste collectors conduct their jobs safely.

The situation intensified in 2018 upon China’s refusal to accept foreign plastic waste, prompting countries to divert waste to other nations in Asia and Africa. The world openly burns roughly “41% of waste,” however, in some cities in Africa, as much as 75% of waste disposal consists of burning rather than recycling.

Waste Collecting as a Livelihood

The low value of plastic waste means women waste collectors remain stuck in a cycle of extreme poverty. In Nakuru, Kenya, waste collectors average a daily income of less than $2 per day “before accounting for expenses such as storage or transportation.” In terms of plastic specifically, in Nairobi, Kenya, waste pickers receive less than $0.05 per kilogram of plastic.

Although informal industries such as waste-collecting are challenging to monitor, according to a study in Ghana of women waste collectors in the plastic value chain, women who work as plastic waste collectors typically earn less than men. These women also have less power in the workplace, compete with men for the most valuable recyclables and lack equipment such as pushcarts, storage facilities and personal protective equipment. In Ghana, 74% of women working in plastic waste facilities have the lowest-paying positions (such as washing and sorting) and only 7% of women work in positions that allow them to make decisions.

Chemicals in Plastics Disproportionately Harm Women

The chemicals added to plastics during manufacturing come with known human health risks and some that disproportionately harm women. Body fat is an ideal storage site for bioaccumulating and lipophilic chemicals, and because women’s bodies store more fat than men’s, exposure to these chemicals leads to higher concentrations of absorption in women, even when the exposure rate is the same.

Chemicals that cause endocrine disruption (a process that changes the body’s hormonal system) can cause cancers, congenital disabilities, immune disorders, reproductive disorders, neurological disorders and developmental problems in women, fetuses and children. Endocrine disruptors (EDCs) such as bisphenol A, phthalates, dioxins, lead and cadmium are present in plastics used for food packaging, electronics, textiles, cosmetics and more. EDCs are an urgent international health issue, especially for developing countries where people are unable to protect themselves against high levels of exposure.

WIEGO Empowers Women Waste Collectors

Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) is an international organization dedicated to improving the conditions of people (especially women) who work in informal industries, such as women waste collectors. WIEGO has formed a partnership with Latin American waste collector movements, as well as organizations and institutions, to form the Gender & Waste project, “a collaborative project involving waste pickers.”

The Gender & Waste project works to empower women by highlighting gender-related discrimination among waste collectors and addressing the needs of women who work in this role. The Gender & Waste project offers educational workshops, toolkits and videos to both raise awareness and empower women waste collectors. The Gender & Waste project has empowered women waste collectors in Latin America to “mobilize more collectively and demand that gender be a key issue on the agenda of the national movement.”

In areas of the world where the government recognizes and supports waste collecting, such as in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, waste collectors generally “have higher incomes than other informal workers.” By empowering women waste collectors to unionize, initiatives like the Gender & Waste project help to improve working conditions, promote personal safety and ensure higher incomes. Safer working environments and higher incomes for women waste collectors safeguard the health and well-being of women and empower them to rise out of poverty.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Zero-Waste LivingAmid a whirlwind of environmental disasters, people around the world are looking to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. Many choose to pursue the “zero-waste” lifestyle, which reduces solid waste products through mindful consumption. As a method of social and environmental activism, zero-waste living alleviates poverty by rejecting exploitative industries and uplifting ethical ones.

Zero-Waste Stores

Entrepreneurs and businesses are catching on to the rising popularity of zero-waste living. Mindful consumption is a cornerstone of zero-waste living that involves purchasing products that manufacturers produce ethically, sustainably and with the least amount of waste possible. Small grocery stores like Zero Green in Bristol help shoppers avoid disposable packaging and purchase local, sustainable goods. Zero-waste stores use reusable containers made of glass and other long-lasting materials instead of single-use products similar to plastic.

At Zero Green, everything in the shop, even the shelving and storage, is “upcycled.” Customers who visit zero-waste shops can bring their own reusable containers and bags to carry groceries back home. The rising demand for zero-waste shops could help expand the zero-waste living movement while making it more accessible and affordable to the masses. Zero-waste living alleviates poverty by uplifting small businesses that prioritize ethical, sustainable products and packaging.

Rejecting Fast Fashion

The zero-waste living movement has inspired brands and consumers to reject fast fashion. Fast fashion is the disposable, cheaply produced clothing that results from exploitative labor and environmental degradation. Fashion brands including Zero Waste Daniel and Aissata Ibrahima stand up to the fast fashion industry by creating ethical and sustainable clothes while producing minimal waste.

For example, the founder of Zero Waste Daniel, Daniel Silverstein, said his clothing company takes 12 to 18 months to fill up a single garbage bag of waste. Zero-waste fashion brands are one of many ways to reject fast fashion. Consumers opting to be zero-waste can also purchase second-hand clothes, make and repair their own clothes and buy high-quality clothes that will last for several years. Zero-waste living can help alleviate poverty by rejecting fast fashion, which exploits workers in impoverished communities.

Less Consumption

At large, the objectives of zero-waste living are to consume less and consume mindfully. Zero-waste brands and stores help consumers shop mindfully. Consuming less, however, takes place largely outside of the marketplace and inside the minds of consumers. It involves repair, reuse and recycling. Dianna Cohen, the founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, said zero-waste living is a mindset that takes time to fully adapt to. The zero-waste lifestyle involves making small, daily decisions that prioritize sustainability and waste reduction. Those who partake in the “consume less” principle of zero-waste living protest against exploitative products by simply not purchasing them.

The Goal is Progress, Not Perfection

The idea of zero-waste living may seem unattainable to the average person. Many small steps that lead toward a waste-free lifestyle, including purchasing reusable straws and ice trays, can significantly reduce an individual’s plastic consumption over time. Any progress on the path to becoming a more ethical, waste-free consumer, no matter how small or slow, can make a difference.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Agbogbloshie Dump in GhanaThe Agbogbloshie dump in Ghana is a massive e-waste dumpsite. While many discarded electronics found in “the digital dumping ground” come from wealthier countries in the developed world, Ghana creates much of its own e-waste. Imported e-waste usually consists of reusable electronic products. E-waste contaminates the air and soil with detrimental toxins. Despite the environmental and health impacts of improperly managed e-waste, the dump is booming with entrepreneurial activity.

The E-Waste in Agbogbloshie

Ghana imports almost 150,000 tons of electronic goods per year, which contributes to the excessive e-waste buildup in Agbogbloshie. The e-waste dump is now a vital source of income for impoverished Ghanaians and electronic scraps serve as one of the limited resources in the region. Some of the e-waste is burned, some of it is recycled and other electronic products are repaired or refurbished and resold. The problem is not necessarily the business endeavor itself, but the lack of formal recognition and regulations. Formally recognizing the dump as an entrepreneurial hub and implementing regulations could address environmental and health impacts.

The Health Impacts

In the Agbogbloshie dump in Ghana, workers strip electronic cables in order to uncover “gold, silver, copper and other valuable metals.” Workers resort to “acid leaching and cable burning” to more easily and economically strip cables, but these practices release harmful chemicals and byproducts that impact the health of people and the health of the environment. Researchers from the WHO Collaborating Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the University of Queensland in Australia confirm the detrimental health impacts of exposure to e-waste. The research confirms the link “between e-waste exposure and thyroid dysfunction, adverse birth outcomes, behavioral changes, decreased lung function and adverse changes that can be seen at the cellular level.”

Reducing E-Waste Globally

On an individual level, it is possible to reduce the amount of e-waste produced. In doing so, consumers can decrease the amount of e-waste that inevitably ends up accumulating at the Agbogbloshie dump in Ghana. People can refrain from discarding electronic products in the trash, thereby reducing the electronic material imported to countries like Ghana. Instead, the goal should be to reuse old products and recycle them if they cannot be reused or repaired. If personally reusing the goods is not an option, the goods can be donated to charity or passed on to family and friends.

International waste reduction is a step in the right direction, but it cannot be the sole response to the issue of e-waste. The United Nations Environment Programme states that Ghana and other countries in West Africa create 85% of the e-waste in Ghana and West Africa. This means that reducing the export of electronics from developed countries will not be enough to address the hazards of the e-waste in the Agbogbloshie dump. Since many people rely on the dump to make a living, a solution must be approached with the locals in mind and their situations of poverty.

Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP)

A Ghana-based organization called the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) takes this idea to heart. The organization encourages people relying on the Agbogbloshie dump to create and repair e-products instead of making a fast profit from recycling materials. This global network helps people create new inventions out of used products and reduces toxic waste in the process. The AMP imparts knowledge and gives advice on how to safely work with e-waste. The organization also developed the AMP Spacecraft, which is a simple blueprint for people to build affordable mobile workshop spaces. Maker Kits are “3D digital downloads of tools and instruments” for crafters to use in their inventions and repairs.

The AMP provides the support needed to ensure that impoverished people relying on the e-waste dump can still make an income in a safe and improved way.

– Esha Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

E-waste in Ivory Coast
The growing domestic demand for technology is causing e-waste in Ivory Coast, a country that people also know as Côte d’Ivoire. Ivory Coast is a West African country with a population of nearly 26 million.

The Scale of the Problem

E-waste produces persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These pollutants do not break down under natural conditions and they can cause numerous health issues in humans. This ranges from tissue damage to developmental disorders and cancer. Ivory Coast’s population includes 45% in poverty. Additionally, only 35% of the country’s rural inhabitants have access to clean water.

In 2009, Ivory Coast generated 15,000 tons of e-waste. While the country generates the majority of this waste domestically, a significant portion comes from developed countries in the E.U. An issue is that some of the imported waste is not recyclable, so it goes to local landfills. Ivory Coast’s government designed a system to prevent this. It hired an international waste management company, SGS, to inspect all incoming e-waste to make sure it was not pure waste. Since 2016, a system that National Waste Management Strategy developed created a specific supply chain for technology waste. The new system relies heavily on informal manual recycling of parts by locals. A major issue with waste management in Ivory Coast is that a robust waste exchange and sorting system is not present.

Ivory Coast Partners Working to Collect E-waste

A supermarket chain, Promusa, established technology waste deposit stations at all of its markets. It works to collect and refurbish the waste that undergoes collection for second, third or fourth-hand use, along with the cellphone company MTN Group and recycling outfit Ewa-Paganetti. In 2016, the MTN Group used a similar system to recycle 75 tons of technology waste. Five sites under the Mesad Electronic Waste Project exist in Ivory Coast. These recycling sites focus on mobile phones and other electronic handhelds. They hire Ivory Coast citizens to collect, sort and pack electronic waste for recycling in France. However, some locals are creating initiatives that complete all the steps of the recycling process in their communities.

A solidarity project called Create Lab in Abidjan has been teaching locals how to repair, reuse and recycle technology waste in their communities through 2020. Create Lab teaches locals in its community skills like how to strip wire and copper from waste or how to create new spools of wire. It then repurposes this technology to create household wind turbines and other community technology improvements. Bakary Bola, a local IT specialist who is also an internet café owner, manages the project. He said that the majority of electronic waste the program uses comes from local refuse.

The Benefits of Local-based Technology Recycling

Bakary Bola outlined a few benefits of electronic recycling. The first is that the locals can learn valuable maintenance skills to keep their technology lasting longer which means less technology waste ends up in landfills. The trained repairers then can fix the e-waste in order to provide laptops, phones and other equipment to their community. Through this work, the amount of POPs in communities reduces. All of these benefits build on each other to create a community that can turn a potential hazard into a valuable resource for its people.

– Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Flickr

Wasted Medical Supplies
The United States generates over two million tons of wasted medical supplies each year. Facilities do not use many of these supplies such as unexpired medical supplies and equipment. People even throw away completely usable, albeit expired medical supplies. This surplus exists because of hospital cleaning policies, infection prevention guidelines and changes in vendors. Additionally, because equipment must always be ready, replacements are always in order. As such, in the U.K., medical facilities replace equipment before the old versions are out of commission. Waste ranges from medicine to operating gowns, all the way to hospital beds and wheelchairs. Beyond consumables like medicine and one-time supplies like syringes, the need to replace before equipment is sub-optimal leaves a margin for waste on big-ticket items like MRIs.

Many hospitals have dumped their garbage from the reception and operating rooms along with usable medical surplus into incinerators. Although this burning is a source of many pollutants, it is still common practice in many developing countries.

This issue of medical supply waste intertwines deeply with a lack of access to medical equipment in the developing world. While developed countries live in a world of sterile excess, developing countries and remote villages with little access to suitable equipment to meet their needs suffer.

How Does this Waste Relate to Poverty?

People view access to the level of health care service in the developed world as the standard rather than a privilege. In places of poverty like Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, facilities are in desperate need of supplies and equipment to treat patients in their region.

Inadequate provisions leave patients on the floor or in out-of-date hospital beds paired with another patient. In the DRC, rape is a common weapon of war. The U.N. Human Rights Security Council passed a resolution that described the problem as “a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.” Many of the patients at the doorstep of Burhinyi Central Hospital are suffering from rape-related ailments. Some examples are HIV/AIDS, fistulas, bladder and intestinal damage and infections. Without the necessary equipment to handle such cases, impoverished areas, which are already more prone to injury and disease, deteriorate.

How Can it be Fixed?

Again, the issue of wasted medical supplies id deeply connected to poverty. In fact, they are complementary. The solution lies in moving the surplus from areas of excess to people in need. This reduces the waste in developed countries by giving supplies to hospitals that need them. Therefore, one can convert wasted medical supplies to usable surplus.

There are many NGOs like Medshare and Supplies Over Seas (SOS) that follow this process. These nonprofits operate based on collecting, sorting and sending the usable medical surplus to hospitals in need.

SOS has a container shipment program that sends cargo containers filled with medical supplies. These containers would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. A typical container contains six to eight tons. Its medical contents value conservatively at $150,000-$350,000. Since 2014, SOS has shipped containers to 20 countries in need.

A volunteer at Medshare outlined her experience working with surplus medical supplies, saying that, “It was shocking how much waste there actually was. Warehouses full of totally usable stuff all ready to be thrown away.” She added, “[she] sorted through things like syringes and gauze packets which were all put into huge containers for hospitals that need it. It feels like a difference is being made.”

Stop Wasting and Start Donating

Wasted medical supplies and impoverished areas without access to proper medical equipment are issues that people can resolve simultaneously by salvaging usable supplies and equipment that were ready to go to landfill and sending them to communities in need. Regarding medical waste and poverty, the best solutions occur when those who have more give to those who have less.

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

food waste and global hungerAccording to World Food Program (WFP) USA, food waste and global hunger are directly correlated. Food waste, alongside conflict, lack of resources and chronic poverty, is a key cause of hunger in the world today. Annually, as much as one-quarter to one-third–approximately 1.3 billion tons–of all food is wasted or lost globally. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, $4 billion in food was lost in 2011, significantly exceeding the amount of foreign assistance the region received that year.

Lack of Access

The issue of global hunger is generally a lack of access to food, rather than lack of food supply. Considering that $1 trillion in edible food, enough to feed roughly 2 billion people, is discarded around the globe each year, it would seem that examining and addressing food waste could be a significant step in alleviating global hunger.

Projections indicate that a 25 percent decrease in global food waste could provide enough food to feed all who are malnourished in the world today. Food waste has multiple root causes, depending on the region and level of development where it occurs. In developing countries, food loss and waste is usually the fault of lack of technology and infrastructure in the agricultural and transportation sectors. Conversely, developed countries tend to create food waste because of overproduction or consumers purchasing more food than needed.

Combating Hunger

To combat food waste and global hunger, the United Nations (UN) and other organizations have created initiatives to increase efficiency in food production and minimize waste. One such initiative is the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), to which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with nine countries, pledged about $1.4 billion over the course of three years.

Since its creation in 2009, GAFSP has been able to target 2.5 million farmers, deploy approximately $332 million, approve 61 investments spanning 27 countries and approve 67 advisory projects across 30 countries in the developing world. Today, GAFSP is working on projects ranging from modernizing the dairy industry in Mauritania to promoting the growth of sustainable development in the palm oil sectors of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

These contributions, in addition to the $4.4 billion invested in the private sector by the International Finance Corporation in 2013, jumpstarted projects to provide access to seeds, equipment, information, markets and finances for producers and farmers in developing countries. The Global Irrigation Program (GIP), created by the IFC, continues to support irrigation suppliers and farmers by creating access to and availability of effective irrigation equipment, thus helping to manage water use in farming communities.

The Impact of Aid

The World Bank notes that initiatives such as these have led to significant improvements relating to food waste and global hunger in recent years. As a direct result of the International Development Association’s efforts, over 210 million pregnant and/or lactating women, children under the age of five, and adolescent girls in developing regions gained access to basic nutrition services from 2003 to 2013.

Food waste, along with other factors such as poverty and conflict, is a root cause of global hunger. Initiatives to address hunger and malnourishment worldwide have sought to improve the efficiency of food production and minimize sources of food waste; these initiatives are making significant progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating hunger by 2030.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

Alleviating Poverty and Waste in AfricaWith trillions of pounds of trash produced worldwide per year, it is safe to say that trash is a growing problem. While the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash every day, many do not realize the immensity of trash built up in communities as it almost mythically disappears from curbs weekly. Comparatively, Africans produce considerably much less waste with only 5 percent of the trash worldwide coming from the entire continent. However, in less developed parts of the world like Africa, only 10 percent of trash is regularly collected. This build-up of trash becomes problematic as it pollutes the land and water, causing disease and environmental degradation. There are many creative entrepreneurs in Africa now exploring new ways to tackle both poverty and the growing waste problem. These entrepreneurs are using creative ways to reuse the waste in their communities to create quality products to sell. From bags to shoes to fence posts, here are three businesses alleviating poverty and waste in Africa.

Rethaka Repurposes Schoolbags

Two young South African women entrepreneurs, Thato Kgatlhanye & Rea Ngwane, designed a school bag that offers a creative solution to numerous problems. Their school bags are each made out of 20 recycled plastic bags. Their idea removes plastic waste from their communities while offering a sustainable, waterproof school bag. Additionally, the bags are reflective, ensuring that kids are visible during their walks to and from school. The cherry on top of this sustainable solution is the solar charged light attached to each bag. This light charges while a child walks outside to school, providing them light to study by at home after dark. With over 10,000 bags sold already, Rethaka created local job opportunities paying fair wages, ultimately helping lift employees out of poverty.

SoleRebels

SoleRebels of Ethiopia boasts that it was the first ever fair trade certified footwear company back in 2005. Creating jobs for over 600 locals paid on average 233 percent more than industry averages, soleRebels truly prioritized creating an ethical job market in Ethiopia since its creation. Recognizing sustainability as a deeply ingrained cultural tradition rather than a contemporary trend, soleRebels made creating footwear with a low environmental impact a priority. The soles of the shoes are made out of recycled car tires. The company uses a variety of other reused and recycled materials like cotton for the rest of the shoe. This locally owned business promotes the importance of local ownership over charity. As wealth gets more evenly distributed, more people can escape poverty through job creation and ethical wages.

EcoPost

All while creating thousands of jobs for locals, EcoPost eliminated over 6 million pounds of plastic to create fence posts. Its fence post design mirrors the look of traditional wood fencing but is much more durable as it is not vulnerable to termites, mold or theft for firewood (a growing problem in Kenya).  EcoPost proved to be safer for local communities as it does not leach harsh chemicals into the water supply as treated timber does. This sustainable fencing option also reduces the number of forests cut down to create fencing from virgin wood resources. By recycling and reusing thousands of plastic bags, EcoPost helped reduce the amount of flooding in local communities caused by plastic bags clogging sewer systems. EcoPost is helping to build up communities from the inside out through the intersection of job creation and waste reduction.

As Africa continues to urbanize, the amount of municipal waste is expected to double by 2025. As growing waste negatively impacts those in poverty, it is crucial for new local businesses to take on this low impact business model. By removing waste from the waste stream and creating new jobs, sustainable businesses like the ones discussed here are effective options. With more businesses like these three businesses alleviating poverty and waste in Africa around, the path to escape from poverty becomes more accessible.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Indigo dye in indiaIn 2017, the people in Mumbai, India saw something strange happening with the stray dogs of the city. The dogs all seemed to be turning a light blue color. People reported to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board that a company in the Taloja Industry area was dumping indigo dye, which was primarily used by that company, in the local Kasadi river. The dogs were hunting for food in the area and, consequently, their fur was turned blue. Authorities quickly shut down the factory to prevent more dye from entering the river, but the question remained about how toxic this dye is not only to the animals but the locals as well? With the long history of indigo dye and India, why has this only recently become a problem?

Indigo Dye in India

Indigo is a natural dye, but unlike most natural dyes, indigo dye penetrates clothes directly when heated. Indigo dye and India are correlated because the country had been using it naturally for centuries. Now, however, most factories use a chemical agent called mordant to increase the number of clothes produced in less time. Mordants can be just acidic, not necessarily toxic, but most companies choose to use mordant with aluminum and chromium. Both of these can cause great damage to the ecosystem. Factory wastewater can poison rivers, killing plants, animals and poisoning drinking water for the people of India.

Even without mordants, natural indigo dye is not great for the environment either. It is slow to decompose and darkens river water, so flora and fauna starve from lack of sunlight. That is why the dogs of Mumbai turned blue upon entering the river. The best approach to preventing toxic dyes from entering and poisoning the rivers is prevention and filtration. If factories used local plants for dyes, that would help filtration. Prevention is tricky. Scientist Juan Hinestroza is working on using nanotechnology to apply dye directly to cloth fibers. If this is successful, it would make toxic dyes and mordants obsolete.

Water Pollution

Groundwater, rivers and streams are being severely affected by this fashionable color. With such a high demand for cheap clothes in indigo, like denim jeans, factories and workshops find cheap, quick ways to produce products at high volumes. Tirupur, India is home to many factories specifically used for making and dyeing clothes. These factories have been dumping the wastewater from production into rivers in the area. Despite tougher regulations, they continue the process, rendering local and groundwater undrinkable.

With dying waters and a rising population, India is struggling to clean up its rivers. The fight is far from over, and people have turned to the government for an answer. Activists are heading to court to get municipalities and states to rise and take action. They started with one demand for the restoration for the Mithi river, a river polluted with dye, paint and engine oil. Citizens started legal petitions then gathered volunteers to get other rivers in the area cleaned up. After a terrible flood in 2005, dams were built to reduce overflow, which was helpful because the rivers are now split it in two.

Back To Nature

India is one of the few countries that produce indigo and denim clothes at high volumes, so the ways of naturally applying indigo to clothing is a long lost art. However, one designer is working to change that. Payal Jain, a fashion designer in India, is bringing back the natural ways of getting indigo straight from the plant and onto the clothes. Using mud and intricate wood carvings, artisans use this method to print the color directly to the fabric. Bringing back traditional ways of dying could relieve the environment from toxic, synthetic dyes.

Blue dogs appearing in the streets, poisoned rivers and groundwater, crops dying and limited access to clean drinking water are all direct results of indigo dye waste being dumped into the rivers. As long as factories continue to dump dye waste into rivers, this problem will persist. The citizens of India are coming together to clear the neglected rivers and push for tougher regulations on clothing factories. With the government’s support and the use of new scientific methods to dye clothing, Indigo dye in India could remain popular without being dangerous.

Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

Plastic waste in IndiaPlastic waste in India has collectively reached 8.3 billion tons throughout the past 70 years. This is inclusive of plastic bags, plastic bottles, packaging, straws, spoons and forks and much more. To picture how much 8.3 billion tons would look like, compare it to 1 billion elephants or 822,000 Eiffel Towers.

Plastic Poses a Threat to the Sea Life

This immense amount of plastic waste in India often ends up polluting the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It acts as entrapments to the natural habitats. When ingested by fishes, the chemicals that compose the plastic poisons them and make them inedible for consumption. In other cases, plastic packaging such as the rings for canned sodas pose as a threat to wildlife like Turtles as it can strangle them. Additionally, the sea creatures view plastic waste as predators that interfere with their natural food consumption. This makes these animals starve as they find it difficult to approach their natural food source.

Plastic Waste in India Affects the Livelihood of Fishermen

Fishing is one of the primary occupations for people living on the coasts of India. For many, that is the only source of income. The problem of plastic waste in the sea is affecting the livelihood of fishermen to a great extent.

Recently, fishermen and women in India have begun to filter through, wash and sort the plastic collected from the sea. Those that are too damaged or far too recycled, are further recycled. While the plastic that is in near-perfect form is shredded and sold to construction companies. It is shredded into a consistency finer than confetti and used to build up the asphalt used to pave roads.

Using Plastic to Construct Roads

There are various benefits to using recycled plastics over regular plastics, especially in terms of constructing roads. By using recycled plastic, one can save approximately 1 ton of asphalt. In addition, cost wise, it provides approximately 8 percent profit. Furthermore, addressing the influx of plastic waste in India paves way for new jobs for many unemployed citizens.

In terms of quality, roads constructed with the help of recycled plastic tends to be more durable against weather conditions such as floods and high temperatures. A variety of smaller plastic shredding businesses have risen in order to support this new form of construction.

The Process of Utilizing Plastic Waste

The process involved in constructing roads from recycled plastic is relatively simple. First, the different kinds of plastic wastes are sorted, cleaned and dried. Then, it is shredded into a fine confetti texture. After that, it is melted at 170 degrees Celcius. To this, hot bitumen, a mixture used to build roads, is added. Once this mixture is complete, it is further mixed with asphalt concrete and laid out into foundations.

This technique of utilizing plastic waste to build roads has been already put to practice in 11 states throughout India. Some of these places include Halls Road, Ethiraj Silai Street and Sardar Patel Street. Currently, 100,000 kilometers of roads have been built.

One of the leading cities to implement this technique is Chennai. So far, 160,000 kilograms of plastic have been reused. In turn, 1.035 kilometers of road has been built. By following the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle, plastic waste in India is being redirected to better the country.

Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

Using Ocean Plastic to End Poverty
There are an estimated 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans and about 80 percent of that plastic comes from countries that can be considered as countries with extreme poverty. Individuals struggling to feed their families and send their children to school do not have time to worry about recycling and are often unaware of the effects of pollution on their surrounding environment. To address this issue, David Katz founded the Plastic Bank, a company that is using ocean plastic to end poverty.

The Plastic Bank- Using Ocean Plastic to End Poverty

The Plastic Bank aims to combine social and environmental impact by creating value out of plastic waste. Communities suffering from poverty usually do not have effective waste management programs and therefore any plastic products used by local families end up polluting the surrounding environment. By working with impoverished communities, the Plastic Bank helps set up stores in which the accepted currency is post-consumer plastics. This enables individuals to collect plastics and exchange them for money, goods and services.

This program has proven to be very successful in Haiti. A number of stores have been founded in which locals can bring used plastics to be weighed and checked for quality and then traded in for credit. The stores that are created and operated by locals offer various products and services, from food and water to school tuition and medical insurance to cell phone minutes and high-efficiency stoves.

Cooperation with Other Companies

In addition to offering a means of steady income, this credit system allows individuals to set up a savings account. Impoverished communities often rely on cash transactions and are therefore at a greater risk of corruption and theft. To solve this, the Plastic Bank teamed up with IBM to employ blockchain technology, removing money from the equation completely.

The Plastic Bank then sells the plastics collected to socially and environmentally conscious companies around the world. Brands like Marks and Spencer and Henkel use recycled plastic in their manufacturing. As a consumer, everyone can support poverty-reduction efforts and the environment by buying products made with these recycled plastics.

Innovative Solutions

The Plastic Bank is continuing to expand its operations and is testing out other innovative solutions by using ocean plastics to end poverty, such as a bottle-deposit program in Vancouver in which all of the money collected from recycled plastics is sent to poor communities around the world. Another idea is to match churches in big cities with those in impoverished nations. For example, a church in London asking its members to bring in plastics and then, with the help of the Plastic Bank, sending the proceeds to a church in Cairo that is able to assist the members of its community suffering from poverty.

The Plastic Bank has formed a system in which plastic waste is given a value, offering individuals a means of income while incentivizing anti-pollution efforts. Not only is this program using ocean plastics to end poverty and to create jobs for locals living in poverty, but it also creates stores in which goods and services most needed by the community are available. As they continue to grow and implement new ideas, the Plastic Bank is supporting those suffering from poverty around the world while tackling a global pollution issue.

– Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Google