Our planet is drowning in plastic. The devastating effect of plastic waste on our oceans is well known. However, there is a human element to the plastic crisis, which is rarely discussed. Over three billion people live without formal waste management — that’s almost half the planet’s population. This has given rise to an informal waste picking economy.
Some of the world’s most marginalised people pick untreated waste to try to make a living. These waste pickers, many of them women, often live below the poverty line, work in appalling conditions and are shunned by society. Yet they form a critical line of defence in stopping plastic from entering our rivers and oceans.
That’s why The Body Shop is launching its first Community Trade recycled plastic, in partnership with Plastics For Change. Launching on World Fair Trade Day, this is a commitment to tackling the plastic crisis differently because walking away from plastic altogether is not the answer. If used responsibly and given value, plastic can be sustainable, and The Body Shop wants to use plastic recycling to help transform lives.
Community trade recycled plastic from Bengaluru, India
India alone has 1.5 million waste pickers who collect and sort over 6,000 tonnes of plastic every day that would otherwise pollute our rivers and oceans. The majority of India’s waste pickers are Dalits, previously known as ‘untouchables’. This means that they have virtually no visibility in society and have limited rights. They are vulnerable to discrimination, poor living and working conditions and an unpredictable payment system for the plastic they collect.
“I have been picking waste for around 30 years, since I was a child. This is a really tough and physically demanding industry to be in. Waste pickers face all kinds of hardships, including harassment, late payments and health issues. However, through waste picking, I have managed to raise a family and send my 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 society produces.” Annamma, former waste picker and current Dry Waste Collection Centre Manager, Bengaluru.
With over three decades of working with disadvantaged communities around the world, The Body Shop is applying its expertise to help tackle the plastic crisis. An abundance of recyclable plastic already exists.
In partnership with Plastics for Change, The Body Shop has started using Community Trade recycled plastic in its 250ml haircare bottles, soon including its bestselling Ginger Shampoo with one bottle sold every four seconds*. The bottles will contain 100% recycled plastic (excluding the bottle caps). 15% of that will be Community Trade recycled plastic, the remainder will be recycled plastic from European sources. The Body Shop will increase the amount of Community Trade Recycled plastic over time. Working with a start-up company and small waste picker communities means starting small and scaling up in a responsible and sustainable manner.
In its first year, The Body Shop will purchase 250 tonnes of Community Trade recycled plastic to use in nearly three million 250ml haircare bottles by the end of 2019. This marks the start of a wider ambition, which is to introduce Community Trade Recycled plastic across all PET plastic used by The Body Shop within three years. Over the course of three years, the programme will scale up to purchasing over 900 tonnes of Community Trade recycled plastic and help empower up to 2,500 waste pickers in Bengaluru.
They will receive a fair price for their work, a predictable income and access to better working conditions. They will also get help in accessing services such as education, financial loans and healthcare services, and the respect and recognition they deserve.
Top row from left: Shameem, Rihana, Husna; Bottom row from left: Mallika Bhaniu, Nagma
The Body Shop and Plastics for Change will work alongside local partners such as Hasiru Dala, a non-governmental organisation that fights for waste picker rights, and Hasiru Dala Innovations, a social enterprise dedicated to creating essential employment opportunities for waste pickers.
“As a company, we’ve always had the conviction to stand up for our principles when it comes to helping empower people, especially women, while protecting our planet. Our new partnership with Plastics for Change and our other partners will not only help support waste pickers but also champion plastic as a valuable, renewable resource when used responsibly.” Lee Mann, Global Community Trade Manager for The Body Shop.
“Plastic recycling is a major source of income for the one percent of the world’s most marginalised urban population and we are incredibly excited to partner with The Body Shop and other partners to help these groups get the financial and social benefits they deserve.
“We set up Hasiru Dala and Hasiru Dala Innovations with the goal of giving waste pickers a formal identity in Bengaluru to enable them to fight for their rights and a fair place in society. Our new partnership with The Body Shop and Plastics for Change is another huge leap in recognising the relentless work our waste pickers carry out each day despite being faced with so many challenges.” Nalini Shekar, Co-Founder and Executive Director for Hasiru Dala.
To mark this launch, the company has unveiled a giant artwork of a female Indian waste picker in London’s Borough Market. Made using recycled plastic collected by waste pickers in Bengaluru, the artwork is on public display on 10th and 11th May.
*Based on global sales 12/12/2017 to 11/12/2018 of all product sizes of this formula (selling period of 12 hours per day, 7 days per week).