Improving livelihoods and avoiding plastic pollution through waste collection in India
Renowned for its elaborate temples, sandstone caves and Prakasam bridge stretching 1,200 metres across the Krishna River, Vijayawada city, in India, is a prominent destination for travellers. Despite the popularity of this destination for its beauty, the city now deals with a very ugly problem: plastic pollution. Generating 150 tonnes of waste a day, single-use plastic makes up 90% of the city's waste, with plastic litter severely impacting residents' quality of life and the natural environment.
The Plastic Free Vijayawada project employs previously informal waste-collectors to retrieve single-use or lesser quality ‘multi-layer’ plastic waste, such as food packaging, directly from households. Without the project, multi-layer plastics are otherwise left discarded as there is little economic incentive for collection and limited options for recycling. Instead, the collected material is consequently sorted at the project facility and transported for recycling. Through the use of a digital monitoring system the project provides greater transparency and confidence in the collection of plastic waste.
This project both mitigates plastic from entering the environment and improves the livelihoods of previously informal waste-collectors. Employees receive health insurance, training on the dangers of the work and protective equipment, such as gloves, masks and safety shoes. By improving the working conditions of waste-collectors, the project incentivises action to expand plastic waste collection, which contributes to building a circular plastic economy.