“Plastic does not belong to nature and we need a fundamental system change to address the problem. What we need is a circular economy.” (Hans Reitz)

Only a few weeks ago our team had been travelling through Colombia for one of our social business incubation programs. Colombia is an amazing country with astonishing landscapes and friendly and warm-hearted people. Despite its middle-income country status, 23 million Colombians are poor and 6 million live below the extreme poverty line. But what has been most striking and shocking was the environmental pollution, littering and amount of mismanaged waste in the country. With tourism on the rise, the problem is expected to increase dramatically over the next couple of years and decades. And Colombia is by far not the only country encountering problems with mismanaged waste. The list of countries is long and the problem deteriorating.

Plastic pollution has become one of the most urgent social and environmental problems of our generation. Approximately 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year and it is expected that in the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. A systemic change is needed in which we have to redefine our use of plastics so that they don’t become waste in the first place and to keep materials as long as possible in the economic cycle.

According to “The New Plastics Economy” report $80-120 billion in annual economic value is currently lost to the economy due to not capturing single-use plastic packaging material after use. The question is how to start thinking circular and transform our linear industrial production lines in order to transform to a more circular economy? A chance for social business entrepreneurs to change the game and become the pioneers for circular solutions.  

Under a bridge on a branch of the Buriganga River in Bangladesh, a family removes labels from plastic bottles, sorting green from clear ones (Source: National Geographic)

Grameen Creative Lab has started the Plastic Lab to work on solutions that keep plastic out of nature and support the transition to a circular economy by connecting social business entrepreneurs, corporations, scientists and innovators. We believe that social business will play an important role to create an effective after-use plastics economy to capture more material value and to increase resource productivity to turn the tap on plastic pollution. Hence, the objective of the Plastic Lab is not only to reduce the leakage of plastic into natural systems, but also to increase the economic attractiveness of keeping materials in the system and supporting industry leaders to deliver on their commitments to drastically increase the use of secondary plastic in their products and packaging.

Currently we are focusing on two main aspects: first, how can we improve waste collection and management systems on land to avoid leakage into natural systems and second, how can we strengthen the waste pickers at the bottom of the current value chain and build up a fair, circular plastic value chain that will engage industrial stakeholders to achieve substantial systemic change.

Colored chips of plastic—collected, washed, and sorted by hand—dry on the banks of the Buriganga. (Source: National Geographic)

During last year’s Global Social Business Summit in Paris we have presented and discussed the different levels of systemic change that are needed and how social business can be a tool to solve unaddressed needs in a sustainable way. The Global Social Business Summit 2018 will focus on five main topics one of them being again “Plastic & Circular Economy”. Throughout various workshops, presentations and expert dialogues we will feature different plastic recycling & waste management social businesses and approaches this year. We have chosen a substantial number of speakers based on their outstanding work at different levels in the plastic sector. Each of them will focus on talking about opportunities related to their particular level of engagement and expertise.

Amongst others, we will have Roshan Miranda, Co-Founder of Waste Ventures India and Wale Adebiyi, CEO Wecyclers from Nigeria, Delia Innocenti, CEO Serioplast and Co-Founder of Jugaad as well as Simon Lee, Co-Founder CRCRL House to speak on plastic and circular economy. Also, we are proud to welcome Dave Hakkens on stage giving an impulse on plastic recycling and product design. Within few years his initiative Precious Plastic has become a global movement empowering thousands of people around the world to start recycling plastic and creating a marketplace for recycled products as an open source.  

Products made by the Precious Plastic community (Source: Precious Plastic)

“The goal of our economic experimentation is to make the world a better place.” Prof. Muhammad Yunus

With the Plastic Lab we want to create one part of the fundament on which we can build a new civilization. During the summit we want to show that everyone of us beholds the power to make that change happen and that the possibilities are only limited by our imagination. Meet inspiring and entrepreneurial-minded people and learn how they created business opportunities addressing plastic waste.

If you want to build a new civilization by establishing a social business claim your spot at the Global Social Business Summit 2018 on November 8th and 9th in Wolfsburg, Germany and be part of the global social business community.

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1 Comment
  • Albina Ruiz

    2. October 2018, 15:25

    in Ciudad Saludable, we developed a program called “circular economy and solid waste”, the subject of plastic is also a problem in Peru in our rivers, lakes and sea, so we are welcome to receive articles related to the topic