In honor of World Ocean Day, Burt’s Bees and rePurpose Global are joining forces to tackle plastic waste pollution in the marine ecosystem.
The companies will inaugurate a joint Ocean Plastic Prevention Initiative, a three-year partnership to finance recycling infrastructure in Accra, Ghana, and the Malappuram district of Kerala, India.
By implementing bespoke approaches to support frontline waste enterprises in each region, the program will not only eliminate more than 1.5 million pounds of waste otherwise bound for the ocean, but also aims to improve the working conditions of local waste workers, many of whom are female, the brand said.
“We wanted to be led by the need on the ground, and by the work that was being done by the women waste workers already in place,” said Matt Kopac, associate director of sustainability for Burt’s Bees. “We wanted to follow the lead of local organizations and see how they were tailoring their approach.”
In Kerala, the companies codeveloped a model enabling recycling facility upgrades and supporting door-to-door household waste collection impacting roughly 2,000 households. Said Kopac of one of the outstanding issues afflicting the region when it comes to waste collection, “In Kerala, the most common form of waste is plastic film. There’s really no market for it; the economics don’t work for local collectors to be able to make a living from collecting it.”
To combat this, the initiative will allocate additional resources into the recovery and recycling of plastic film through its refashioned collection model, making the pursuit more beneficial for not only local collectors, but all inhabitants of the region.
Conversely, in Accra, there already is a substantial market for plastic film in place. Instead of plastic film, the initiative funneled resources in Accra partly into the repurposing of polyethylene terephthalate, which is a recyclable plastic used in the production of soda and water bottles, that composes a sizable amount of plastic waste.
By investing in plastic bottle recycling, the program will reduce waste flow into the rivers of Accre, a cycle that has wide-ranging adverse effects. “There are just plastic bottles clogging up this entire river,” said rePurpose Global CEO Svanika Balasubramanian, who cofounded the company alongside Peter Wang Hjemdahl. “Then, the river can’t support much life, which also creates problems for fishermen who depend on it for their livelihoods.”
Collectively, the initiative will improve working conditions for roughly 350 waste collectors in both regions, creating more reliable income streams for those in the industry through a thoughtful approach to plastic pollution.
Dedicated to reducing plastic waste through tailored approaches across the globe, rePurpose Global has partnered with hundreds of companies across all industries since its founding in 2016. This partnership in particular is a key part of Burt’s Bees commitment to achieving net-zero plastic to nature by 2025, and its target of 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2030.
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