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, often live below the poverty line and work in appalling conditions. 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, Hasiru Dala and Hasiru Dala Innovations. Community Trade is The Body Shop’s bespoke and independently-verified fair trade programme. Launching on World Fair Trade Day, this is a commitment to tackling the plastic crisis differently.
India has 1.5 million waste pickers who collect and sort over 6,000 tonnes of plastic every day that would otherwise pollute rivers and oceans. The majority of them are Dalits, previously known as ‘untouchables’. 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. With over three decades of working with disadvantaged communities around the world, The Body Shop is applying its expertise to help fight for people and the planet.
The Body Shop has started using Community Trade recycled plastic in its 250ml haircare bottles. In 2019, it will purchase 250 tonnes of Community Trade recycled plastic to use in nearly three million 250ml haircare bottles. 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.
In India, The Body Shop has launched its in-store recycling programme – BBOB (Bring Back Our Bottles), encouraging customers to return empty plastic packaging in stores for recycling. It’s currently operational across 40 stores. Planned as a pan-India initiative, it is a significant step for the brand towards valuing plastic & protecting the environment.
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 slowly and sustainably.
In three years, the aim is to purchase 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.
“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 Community Trade partnership will not only help support waste pickers but also champion plastic as a valuable, renewable resource when used responsibly. We want to use plastic recycling to help transform lives,” said Lee Mann, Global Community Trade Manager for The Body Shop.