Toward a Circular Economy: Trash Picking

Toward a Circular Economy:  Trash Picking

Over half of the world’s population doesn’t have a formal waste disposal scheme in place.  One hundred years ago, when the ubiquitous material known as plastic had not yet been invented this may have been okay.  People composted; containers were made of paper, cardboard, cloth, glass, and other materials that broke down readily.  Today, everything seems to be made of plastic which is sturdy and shatter-resistant and lasts for a thousand years — literally.

And that’s the problem.  Plastic’s long shelf life is an anathema on the planet because no one wants to take the time to sort it all out.  On our current trajectory, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, certainly not a sustainable course, right, but what to do when the product that has become so entrenched?

Luckily, when there’s a need, the market fills it.  Enter The Body Shop and their partnership with Plastics for Change and their offspring:  fair trade plastics.  Both companies are certified by the World Fair Trade Organization and that their union would have produced such a happy and bountiful offspring was really just a matter of time.  Here’s how it works. 

Plastics for Change connects trash pickers — of which there are about 1.5 million world-wide — and global markets, ensuring that supply will always meet demand, and provides over 6,000 tons (!) of plastic everyday for recycling. 

Okay, I know.  Trash-picking is probably the least glamorous job around, but if you are living in Bengaluru as one of India’s Dalits, a member of the lowest, or “untouchable” class whose economic standing means they have next to nothing, including basic necessities like housing and access to clean water, then you are happy for a job sanctioned by the World Fair Trade Organization because it will comply with the 10 fair trade principles.  

The Body Shop then uses a portion of the recycled plastic to make the plastics that contain products we love.  And not to worry — several years went into assuring quality control.  As the program grows, so will the percentage of Fair Trade Plastics, a win for the market, the economy, and the planet.  Read the full article here.

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pam lazos 1.31.20

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
This entry was posted in plastics, recycling and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Toward a Circular Economy: Trash Picking

  1. The Liberacy says:

    Economy shrinks, IMF on V-shaped recovery. Some economists suggest of W-shaped recovery by the year 2021-22…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is really exciting to learn about! I rather wish we could institute our own trash pickers in the landfills, but that’d probably be way too dangerous, dangit…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Toward a Circular Economy: Trash Picking – Miaovoxdaily

  4. It’s great to see companies and organizations like The B Shop take creative & proactive strides for the world we are passing on to our children.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. cath says:

    Fascinating post, Pam. I stopped using body-shop after they were taken over by l’oreal, because they seemed to side-step some of the principles I thought they stood for. I’ll take another look, if they’re getting back to recycling. This sounds like a good project.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Damyanti Biswas says:

    We really need to find more effective recycling solutions.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh i just chuck the odd small bottle under the papers when I light the fire. OOps

    Liked by 2 people

  8. If we could recycle and dispose plastic properly at higher rate, we could be in a better position then the one we are in now. Great article. Check mine out about the circular economy as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Susan Scott says:

    Great post Pam thanks. A great initiative – good that the trash pickers in India are being paid. It’s big business here in SA; trash pickers galore who are paid. Also, plastic cooldrink bottles are filled and stuffed with other plastics, and that sturdy bottle is used as bricks to build houses. HALW! xx

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Pam. What we need are plant-based packagings for just about everything. That would meaningfully reduce many problems.


    Liked by 3 people

  11. The trick is certainly to make non-plastic/recycling profitable. then the western world will most assuredly get its act together. (This somewhat acerbic comment courtesy of no sleep last night 😀 )

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
    Plastics for Change connects trash pickers — of which there are about 1.5 million world-wide — and global markets, ensuring that supply will always meet demand, and provides over 6,000 tons (!) of plastic everyday for recycling.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. hilarymb says:

    Hi Pam – so informative and helpful. I’m horrified as our purchases in plastic bags are restricted – yet when I open the dustbins to put my rubbish in a recyclable plastic (small) bag … there are heavy duty plastic bags from a posh supermarket in there … we need to be individually responsible… that needs to be instilled in all of us in the western world, to be leaders … so many things we need to make an individual conscious decision to do. I do hope we can get round the plastic dilemma … things are happening – but how fast, and is it enough, is another matter – thanks for highlighting this for us – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pam Lazos says:

      So true, Hilary — how fast and is it enough?
      To ultimately eliminate plastics would never work since there are so many products for which they are useful – like cars, computers and iPhones — so this is the next best thing, I guess. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Ally Bean says:

    Interesting. Good on The Body Shop to do something about our world’s plastics problem. Every little bit helps.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. A much needed initiative, Pam.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Pam, thanks for an important and informative message. While slightly off topic, I want to recommend one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It’s called THE RENT COLLECTOR (author: Camron Wright), and the setting is a municipal waste dump in Cambodia, which has a community of people living all around it who make their living picking through the garbage. It sounds like it would be a relentlessly depressing book, but, in fact, it’s incredibly uplifting, even quite funny at times. The setting and the characters are unforgettable. It’s a window on a world entirely foreign to most of us, and a stunning reminder of our interconnectedness. In case you’re looking for a good book….

    Liked by 2 people

  17. My dear… i just get speechless with rage re all this plastic. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Pingback: Toward a Circular Economy: Trash Picking — Green Life Blue Water | The Noah Project

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