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Here's an online platform that helps you take responsibility for your plastic waste

rePurpose, a Bengaluru-based social enterprise, is using an algorithm to help people calculate their plastic footprint and telling them how much plastic they use. It also provides a roadmap to help them reduce the usage.

Here's an online platform that helps you take responsibility for your plastic waste

Thursday April 25, 2019 , 7 min Read

How many of us are effectively following the plastic ban in our cities? Our bins are lined with plastic, we drink from plastic bottles, use plastic straws very often and most of our households are filled with plastic - from buckets in bathrooms to containers in our kitchens.

When you discard plastic and it gets to a dumping yard, the ragpickers collect it and give it away to a recycling facility for a pittance. And we all know the biodegradable properties of plastic, don’t we?

plastic, waste, pollution, recycle

On an average, the per capita consumption of plastic in India stands at 11 kilograms (Image: rePurpose)

It is estimated that a massive 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India every day according to a report published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2017. This translates to a per capita consumption of 11 kilograms of plastic on an average. Only 60 percent of this waste is recycled. The rest of the plastic trash consisting of low value components like multi-layered plastic or polyethylene is dumped in landfills and burnt because of the effort and cost involved in recycling them.

Plastic being toxic, when exposed to the environment, can lead to a number of adverse effects. Contamination of ground water, imbalance in the food chain and degradation of air quality are some of the ramifications the country has been dealing with in the last few years.

 plastic, waste, pollution, recycle

One of the landfills dumped with plastic waste in Mumbai (Image: Shutterstock)

rePurpose is attempting to change this scenario by helping people reduce their usage of plastic and also negate the ill-effects of its consumption. The team has already roped in 300 individual consumers and are in the process of onboarding five other organisations with an aim to help them become 'PlasticNeutral' as well as reduce and offset their plastic footprint.

Also read: This village near Gandhinagar went from being a trash-trove to a zero-waste destination

How much plastic do you use?

Do you know how much plastic you use every day or in a year? Have you ever wondered if you can actually calculate the usage? RePurpose has set up a web platform that lets you do just that.

The process is easy. All you have to do is spare three minutes of your time and take an interactive survey that calculates your plastic footprint.

The survey is designed in such a way that it covers the frequency of purchase of various products along with the quantity that is bought. The scope of the questionnaire includes beverages, snacks, groceries, wellness products, clothing, accessories, and household items that contain plastic in some form or the other.

 plastic, waste, pollution, recycle

Screenshot of the rePurpose web platform displaying the plastic footprint of an individual after completing the survey.

At the end of the survey, an estimate of the amount of plastic generated by the individual in a year is given in kilograms.

“The plastic footprint is calculated using an algorithm based on frequency of usage multiplied by the weight of the plastic component present in the product. Based on the result of the survey, we also send personalised recommendations to help people reduce their plastic consumption,” Aditya Siroya, Co-founder, rePurpose tells YourStory.

Besides calculating a person’s plastic footprint, rePurpose also provides people with a roadmap to reduce plastic consumption.

The social enterprise works with a number of environmental organisations in India to collect and recycle low-value plastic waste equivalent to the individual's footprint at a cost of Rs 35 per kilogram. In addition to this, a part of the money goes towards empowering the marginalised waste picker population across the country. In order to sustain the day-to-day operations of the enterprise, rePurpose also charges a service fee of Rs 70 per month.

 plastic, waste, pollution, recycle

Peter Wang Hjemdahl, Co-founder of rePurpose, with the employees of Saahas Zero Waste (Image: rePurpose)

“The idea is to enable individuals to give back to the environment. We have partnered with three organisations – Saahas Zero Waste, Aasra Welfare Association, and Waste Ventures who pull in informal waste workers and employ them to collect plastic trash from the source, sending it to processing locations for segregation and then disbursing the waste to recyclers,” explains Aditya. 

A report consisting of the impact, including the break-up of the cost is sent to individuals who opt to offset their plastic consumption.

Arpita Sandeep, a risk management consultant based in Bengaluru, took the help of rePurpose to calculate and offset her plastic footprint.

“I pay Rs 200 a month to offset my annual plastic consumption of 65 kilograms. It feels great to be able to contribute to the environment and compensate for the damage I might have caused. I am glad rePurpose has taken a step towards restoring the balance of the ecosystem,” she says.

rePurpose is not only providing an opportunity for individuals to offset their plastic footprint, but also, organisations who are looking forward to becoming 'PlasticNeutral'.

Also read: Know how this organisation is teaching young minds how to save the environment and lead a sustainable lifestyle

Reducing the plastic footprint, one city at a time

 plastic, waste, pollution, recycle

rePurpose is attempting to divert low-value plastic waste from landfills and recycle the same (Image: rePurpose)

rePurpose has taken its initiative to reduce plastic waste across four cities in India – Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.

The enterprise is not only enabling individuals to reduce plastic, but is also empowering environmental organisations with whom it has partnered to gather resources to contribute to a pollution-free environment.

“rePurpose has been helping us achieve our objective of recycling multilayer plastic and thermocol which is generally strewn around dump yards due to lack of economic viability to process them. Its platform serves as a middle ground for environmentally conscious citizens and organisations like ours to collaborate with each other,” says Sahiti Snigdha, Urban Waste Manager, Waste Ventures, India.

As part of its awareness programme, rePurpose has initiated a learning programme called rePurpose Labs targeting students from sixth to eighth grades across schools in India, to help them understand the concept of plastic waste management.

 plastic, waste, pollution, recycle

Svanika Balasubramanian, Co-founder of rePurpose educating students about waste management (Image: rePurpose)

To raise further awareness, rePurpose is creating unique content to educate people.

“We are looking forward to galvanising a consumer movement where people are conscious about the waste they generate on a daily basis. Our mission is to reduce waste, restore balance and create a brighter, greener future,” says Peter Wang Hjemdahl, Co-founder, rePurpose.

Also read: This 23-year-old girl from Kerala is converting trash to art, beautifying a lake in her city

The beginning of a purpose

It all started when three students – Peter Wang Hjemdahl, Svanika Balasubramanian, and Aditya Siroya from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania came to Mumbai to work on a research project about waste management. When they saw the towers of garbage in the city, they were appalled.

 plastic, waste, pollution, recycle

L-R: Peter Wang Hjemdahl, Svanika Balasubramanian, and Aditya Siroya, Co-founders of rePurpose (Image: rePurpose)

“We spotted a mound of waste which was 30 metres high at Deonar in Mumbai. We also spoke to a waste worker in the area who said that his entire life revolved around plastic. That was when we realised the gravity of the problem and wanted to explore ways to resolve it,” Aditya shares.

The trio immediately began the necessary groundwork and research to understand the plastic waste management setup in India. They built rePurpose in March 2019 and also launched the web platform.

During this time, they were awarded $ 2,00,000 as part of the President’s Engagement Prize by the University of Pennsylvania for extending their engagement projects towards the betterment of the society at large. The team also won a grant amounting to $ 25,000 as part of the Global Social Ventures Competition, a platform founded by UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. The team made use of these grants for its initial investment.

Today, they are successful in involving the community to divert plastic waste from landfills and recycle it, thereby contributing to a “greener” planet. 

Also read: From waste to wealth: IIT Delhi incubated startup aims to reduce pollution by converting rice straw into biodegradable cutlery