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Empowering Waste Pickers Through Community Trade Recycled Plastic


In May 2019, The Body Shop launched its new Community Trade programme “Community Trade Recycled Plastic” which aims to improve the livelihood of informal waste workers in Bangalore, India. By the end of this year, The Body Shop will buy two hundred and fifty tons of waste PET plastic and recycle it into its haircare bottles (starting with Shea shampoo).

What is Community Trade?

Launched by The Body Shop in 1987, it’s its in-house, independently verified fair-trade scheme. It was originally called „Trade Not Aid“ – a trade that could sustainably support and improve the lives of people living in poverty.

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Ms. Nalini Shekar, co-founder of Hasiru Dala & Hasiru Dala Innovations

What’s the human side of the plastic crisis?

In India, the waste pickers (women and men) come from “Dalit” community – previously called “Untouchables” in the Hindu hierarchy. They have limited social standing, political representation and rights. Collecting plastic is hard work; the waste pickers are subject to unfair treatment and not paid fairly. At the same time, they replace regular waste collecting services that exist in many developed countries.

The Body Shop has decided to partner with two local organizations to make the difference Plastics for Change and Hasiru Dala.

Plastics for Change is a social enterprise founded by Mr. Andrew Almack. His company created an ethical sourcing platform that helps create better livelihood and work opportunities for informal waste workers. Plastics for Change is also helping companies and manufacturers to use ethically sourced recycled plastic instead of fossil fuel-based virgin plastic.

In 2018, Andrew was named by the Forbes as one of the 30 under 30 innovators and disrupters that change Asia to the better.

Hasiru Dala (and it’s sister organization Hasiru Dala Innovations) is a non-profit organization based in Bangalore, India, co-founded by Ms. Nalini Shekar. Her goal is to improve the working conditions of waste pickers as well as their political representation, social standing, education, and future.

Bringing the idea to reality

As mentioned earlier, in the first year, The Body Shop will take out of the environment 250 tons of waste PET plastic. To avoid overstretching the capacity of the producer group in India, The Body Shop developed a scale-up plan over the first three years. The final goal is to gradually introduce Community Trade Recycled plastic across all of The Body Shop products.

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Woman processing Shea butter. Tungteiya Women’s Association. Tamale, North Ghana.

If you remember my article about the Community Trade Shea Butter, you know that its The Body Shop’s Community Trade programme launched twenty-five years ago in the Northern part of Ghana.

The fact that the Shea shampoo is the first product that’s packaged in Community Trade recycled plastic feels like coming full circle. It symbolizes two sets of women from different cultures and continents who work hard to create a better livelihood for themselves, their families, and the whole community.

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