When brainstorming solutions for global poverty, it’s important to consider how we can use existing resources more efficiently. The world wastes far more resources than it needs to, and one major source of waste is plastic. Several entrepreneurs today are recycling plastic waste into productive materials.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), out of 32 million tons of plastic waste produced in 2012, only 9 percent was actually recycled. Plastic is pound-for-pound more valuable than steel, and letting so much of it go to waste is a real shame.
Several ideas for utilizing plastic waste to combat poverty have been implemented. For example, the company Plastic Bank pays people to collect plastic waste in exchange for practical items like food and clothing. This strategy removes plastic from areas such as beaches where it poses an environmental threat while simultaneously giving impoverished people a chance to earn things they need.
Plastic is a versatile material that can be used for a myriad of purposes. EcoDomum is a Mexican startup that collects used plastic materials with which to build housing. It takes the company about a week to make a house from recycled plastic materials, and one 430-square-foot unit costs around 5000 pesos (around $280 U.S. dollars) to build. The short amount of time and low cost required to build these houses make them an efficient tool for improving the living conditions of impoverished people.
While companies can utilize recycled plastic waste for large-scale construction jobs like this, it’s also possible to use plastic for small-scale local operations. A group of older women in Tennessee have made it their mission to make beds for the homeless out of discarded plastic bags. The women receive donated bags, cut them into strips and tie those strips into a sort of plastic yarn, which they then use to crochet sleeping mats.
Recycling plastic waste into productive materials positively impacts the environment as well as the world’s poor. It’s an enterprise that can be undertaken anywhere at both community and global levels.
– Edmond Kim