Globally, about 15 percent of plastic is recycled; however, a coalition of ‘informal workers’ in emerging countries, including South Africa, are making a difference with their plastic collection efforts. The Fair Plastic Alliance (FPA), Urgnano, Italy, has recently formed to improve working conditions for the "informal" collectors, as well as connect the workers to global plastic packaging companies and companies in the recycling industry.
Based in Nigeria, WeCyclers is a startup company that aims to implement an "innovative and scalable" model to collect plastic scrap, while respecting workers’ rights. The company is among the leading members of FPA.
“I have created WeCyclers firmly believing that lifting thousands of informal [scrap] pickers out of poverty in Lagos would be a great thing for the air that we breathe, for health and for labor dignity,” says Bilikiss Adebiyi Abiola, co-founder of WeCyclers. “Lagos, with its 25 million residents, suffers from chronic pollution from waste discarded anywhere on the streets, without any rules. Thanks to what we started, plastic here has become a resource that allows people to send their children to school, have a stable income and afford medical care.”
Fair Plastic Alliance was formed to tackle environmental and social challenges connected to the poor handling of the plastic recycling chain, the alliance says in a news release. Italy-based plastic packaging company Serioplast, United Kingdom-based nonprofit Oxfam and Cesvi, an Italy-based humanitarian nonprofit are among the organizations in the alliance.
“The Fair Plastic Alliance wants to face the environmental and social issues generated by plastic through an innovative approach, leveraging on the active inclusion of informal pickers,” says Delia Innocenti, Serioplast CEO. “This is possible when adopting a business model that brings workers back to the center. A model where investors give up on dividends and reinvest profits in the inclusion and development of local communities, thus guaranteeing economic, social and environmental sustainability and giving an impulse for a bottom-up transformation, sustained and supported by the industrial production chain.”
One of the FPA’s goals it to develop a fair and inclusive” production chain for plastic recycling, which offers informal plastic scrap collectors the opportunity to a “fully recognized job” and a “dignified lifestyle.”
“We are experimenting with an innovative model to stimulate development based on the participation of basic communities, civil society, private sector and national and local government,” says Benetta Gualandi, program manager for Oxfam South Africa. “A strong partnership, where each stakeholder acknowledges their role and puts their expertise and resources at everyone’s disposal.”
FPA is open to companies and organizations interested in adopting a business development model based on fair and circular economy. The goal, the alliance says, is to involve global plastic packaging companies, policy makers, local communities and consumers.
“I am very proud to bring Cesvi on board this initiative,” says CEO Daniele Barbone. “The Fair Plastic Alliance endorses Cesvi’s vocation towards environmental safety and proves that projects involving local populations have a cultural function as well. This is the direction we have taken with our partner Blue Sky Recycling, together with Serioplast, to create a social business for plastic [scrap] collection and recycling in South Africa.”