5 innovators adding value to plastic waste and improving working conditions

The Plastic Waste to Value Southeast Asia Challenge reveals five innovators tackling plastic waste mismanagement in the region.

The Plastic Waste to Value Southeast Asia Challenge reveals five innovators tackling plastic waste mismanagement in the region. Image: TerraCycle Global Foundation

Seruni Putri Soewondo
Senior Communications Associate, The Incubation Network
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  • Plastic waste pollution in Southeast Asia is at alarming levels and thus calls for urgent solutions.
  • Increased collection and aggregation of plastic waste, alongside improved operations and working conditions of plastic waste management are critical to make recycling and upcycling more effective.
  • The Plastic Waste to Value Southeast Asia Challenge reveals five innovators that tackling plastic waste mismanagement in the region.

Between 2017-2019, an estimated 2 million tonnes of plastic waste leakage per year came from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. This accounts for 17% of annual global marine plastic waste leakage. Plastic waste that is not polluting waterways is either burnt or dumped - posing a significant threat to environmental and biodiversity health.

Continuing a business-as-usual approach is not an option. Without proper waste management infrastructure efforts and improvements, a projected 29 million tonnes of plastic waste will flow into the ocean every year by 2040.

To significantly reduce plastic waste pollution, existing solutions such as recycling or upcycling will need to be scaled up significantly. To address this need, The Incubation Network, in partnership with the Global Plastic Action Partnership, UpLink by the World Economic Forum, and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, have recently launched the Plastic Waste to Value Southeast Asia Challenge to accelerate innovative solutions that are focused on plastic recycling and upcycling in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

48 shortlisted candidates were carefully assessed by academic researchers, corporate sustainability practitioners, innovators, and climate and circular economy specialists. Selected innovators will receive partnership building opportunities, mentorship, increased visibility, access to networks, and each will receive a US$10,000 grant to scale their solutions.

Solutions have been assessed based on their contributions to at least one of the three focus areas: increasing the amount of plastic waste managed, processed and/or recycled; supporting operational improvement; and improving working conditions.

These are the top five innovators that will be participating in the tailored development programme over the course of five months:

Bank Sampah Bersinar is a social enterprise that provides community-based waste management solutions in Indonesia. They aim to shift behaviour in waste management through education, society empowerment, collaboration, and technology to support the implementation of a circular economy.

Envirotech Waste Recycling Inc., the only company that conducts low-value plastic upcycling in the Philippines, collects single-use plastic (SUPs) and turns them into useful products such as school chairs and tables, furniture, household essentials, and construction materials. Envirotech recycles around 1,000 tonnes of SUPs each year.

Kibumi is a disruptive start-up company that strengthens the plastic recycling supply chain through digitalized and modernized waste collection points. Through four modern recyclables hubs in Indonesia, they are currently managing 410 tonnes of waste per month.

PLASTICPeople collect and transform plastic waste into useful, safe and beautiful materials. Plastic waste is sorted, shredded, and melted to produce different types of boards. Their boards have been used for furniture, accessories, flooring, walls, roofs, or entire social housing projects in Vietnam.

TerraCycle Global Foundation provides simple, innovative, and high impact solutions to prevent, remove, and recycle waste from the environment. Emphasizing the need for greater recognition and support for waste pickers in Thailand, TerraCycle Global Foundation provides fair and stable income, health insurance, and safety equipment to all their collectors.

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