Since reporting in December 2020, Meridian has continued to facilitate the work of the Plastic Reclaimers Workgroup (PRW). This is a group of senior leaders from five organizations: Mr. Green Africa (Kenya); Plastics for Change (India); Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group (India); Thread/First Mile/WORK (Haiti, Honduras, and Taiwan) and the global NGO WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing) (1). Together these organization have extensive business and NGO experience working with waste reclaimers/waste pickers. Meridian’s role is to make sure important discussions between these two sectors happen on a regular basis.
PRW’s relationship-building and collaboration has demonstrated the benefit of a (live) forum to exchange information about waste reclaimers. PRW aims to achieve tangible changes in the lives of reclaimer communities including - fair distribution of profits; access to health care; worker safety; child labor protections; avoidance of predatory lending practices and pathways to a better future. PRW is also positioned to enhance corporate understanding of the untapped potential of waste reclaimers to accelerate bothclean-up and recycling of unmanaged plastic waste around the globe.
Companies from a range of sectors and supply chains, NGOs, governments and the public have a host of reasons to be interested in the link between waste reclaimers and plastic waste. Some will be primarily interested in identifying ways to mitigate the environmental damage plastic waste causes. Other are interested in finding sources of used plastic to incorporate into new products, as access to recycled plastic PCR(post-consumer resin) poses a competitive advantage. Still other companies are interested in developing relationships with waste reclaimer/waste picker communities to enable this massive global workforce to become productive players in company supply chains. Understandably, all parties want to be informed about risks that come into play when unfamiliar entities begin working together. PRW provides access to well-developed options for mitigating these and other challenges.
In 2022, the United Nations will determine whether to pursue a Global Treaty to prevent Plastic Pollution. In preparation for those discussions, members of PRW played an important role in the Ocean Plastics Leadership Institute’s (OPLN) first Global Policy Dialogue held in March 2021. This series of four Policy Dialogues, is hosted by OPLN, Meridian, World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), Greenpeace, and others. The intent is to bring multiple stakeholders concerned about the consequences of plastic waste together to map and accelerate agreement on recommendations to recommend to the United Nations negotiators for inclusion in the global treaty. Understanding of the role waste reclaimers play in remediating plastic pollution, as described in this uplifting video (see here), is an important goal for the Dialogues.
Much remains to be accomplished to build a circular economy and manage the human/social crisis aspect of the plastic waste problem. PRW has an unusual vantage from which to amplify both. With the support of organizations like GlobalGiving, Dow Corporation and individuals like you, Meridian will continue to accelerate connections and understandings between the sectors.