Borealis is entering a collaboration with Kenyan social enterprise Ecopast to develop the country’s circular economy and promote the rights of informal waste pickers – the majority of whom are women and children.
Borealis says it will fund Ecopost’s waste recycling activities and help formalize waste pickers’ work by financing “entrepreneurial start-up kits for the youth and women groups.”
Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, generates more than 2,400 tons of solid waste every day. Throughout Kenya, this figure is estimated to be over 22,000 tons.
Thirty-six percent of Kenyans live below the poverty line, earning less than US$1.90 a day.
The country is also highly exposed to deforestation. Only 6% of the country’s surface remains covered by forest, further degraded by increased demand for building materials.
Ecopost addresses these challenges by collecting and recycling plastic waste through a replicable and scalable model while creating jobs for operators, plastic waste collectors and distributors.
Borealis declined to reveal any financial details of its collaboration with Ecopost to PackagingInsights.
Diverting waste, promoting rights
Ecopost diverts plastic waste from open burning, and dumping in waterways, sewers and landfilling by creating alternatives to fossil-based plastics for applications like fencing, signage and building material. Borealis says it will use its expertise in the plastics packaging industry to help inform and strengthen these efforts.
A key pillar of Ecopost’s business model is to work with marginalized groups of women and children who collect, sort, shred and prepare waste material for producing pellets and plastic lumber.
“These women are the most important people in the recycling value chain, while at the same time they are exposed to being underpaid for the waste they collect as middlemen selling the collected waste to waste recyclers typically capture the majority of the sales margin,” says Borealis.
The International Alliance of Waste Pickers, which promotes the rights of up 56 million informal waste pickers across the globe, was recently recognized by the UN amid its ongoing negotiations for a global plastics treaty.
Formalizing an informal industry
Ecopost says its mission is to formalize the informal waste-picking community and incorporate training and capacity building across the value chain to provide fair and regular income to waste pickers.
Borealis supports a range of similar initiatives via the Borealis Social Fund, whose aim is to contribute to the social welfare of communities by financially engaging in three focus areas, being education and social integration, water and energy, and waste and resource efficiency.
“Mismanaged waste adversely impacts livelihoods and human health and hinders sustainable development. Partnering with Ecopost not only complements Borealis’ vision toward a circular economy but also helps reduce socio-economic differences, a key target area of the Borealis Social Fund,” Markus Horcher, director of sustainability and public affairs at Borealis, comments.
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