2018 Young Entrepreneurs Awards Winner: Andrew Almack

Initiative: Plastics For Change

Country of impact: India

A social enterprise that leverages mobile technology to create dignified income opportunities for waste pickers while helping brands meet their extended producer responsibility.

It was while backpacking through South Asia in 2011 that Andrew found inspiration for setting up his business, Plastics For Change. “The place had severe poverty and audacious levels of plastic pollution,” he says. He found it hard to believe that people couldn’t make a living by collecting all of the discarded plastics. He set out to prove the point.

Fast forward four years and he has created an ethical sourcing platform to help the 1.5 million waste pickers in India get paid fairly for the plastic they collect.

A transparent process to protect informal waste workers

Informal waste workers, responsible for 90% of recycling that happens in developing countries, struggle to make ends meet. When and how they get paid remains unpredictable and they are at the mercy of price volatility in the recycled plastics markets.

Andrew’s mobile app is currently being used by waste pickers and segregation centres in Bengaluru, India. This creates a more transparent and fair process for those handing over the plastic waste. “We stabilise the price of the plastic by hedging the raw material costs with brands,” he says. This helps to reduce price volatility by securing longer-term relationships with buyers who guarantee a minimum rate in advance.

Improving the quality of recycled plastic through transparency

Plastics For Change, which currently has a core team of seven staff, has created several breakthroughs for India’s recycling economy by improving the quality assurance process in the recycling supply chain. The transparency in the scrap plastic supply chain enables Andrew’s enterprise to implement a robust quality control process. This ensures a consistent supply of high-quality material for industry partners and the platform data helps brands comply with India’s extended producer responsibility legislation.