Turning trash into cash – a new ‘toolkit’ to help reduce plastic pollution

Trash for cash

A new business guide has been launched to help environmentally minded entrepreneurs

  • 08 December 2021
  • 3 min read

A new business guide has been launched to help environmentally minded entrepreneurs, who want to make money out of plastic waste where seemingly no other solutions exist. 

Aimed at any business looking to make money from reusing and recycling plastic waste, the ‘toolkit’ has been developed in a collaboration between the University of Portsmouth and the Flipflopi Project. Designed predominantly for use in developing countries, it draws on lessons learnt in East Africa. The guide uses circular economy solutions to give plastic a second life in areas where plastic pollution is an endemic problem. 

Explaining why the ‘toolkit’ is needed, Dr Cressida Bowyer, Deputy Director of the University of Portsmouth’s Revolution Plastics initiative said: “The vast increase in consumption of single-use plastic products such as plastic straws, plastic bags, bottles, and packaging has meant a huge increase in plastic waste. Unfortunately, waste management systems haven’t grown at the same rate. Many urban areas of East Africa are now left with more waste than current systems know how to deal with and a huge increase in informal (or unlicensed) dumpsites which threaten the health of people and the environment.”

This toolkit works on the principles of a circular economy – it’s about taking something that is seen as waste and turning it into something of value.

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Deputy Director of the University of Portsmouth’s Revolution Plastics

Dr Bowyer added: “This toolkit works on the principles of a circular economy – it’s about taking something that is seen as waste and turning it into something of value. By helping to clean up the local environment and improving living conditions for communities – local businesses can also make money – it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved”. 

Researchers have found that small scale recycling enterprises can help to take environmental pressure off communities, where local governments have been unable to keep up with the amount of waste produced. Circular economy approaches can also empower waste pickers and local people to take control of the economic opportunities hidden in waste management. 

 

The University of Portsmouth and Flipflopi have used experience gained in East Africa to craft this ‘one-stop’ guide. Packed full of case studies and engaging infographics, it is based on lessons learned in joint projects to set up waste management start-ups, waste collection systems, recycling workshops and innovation hubs. 

Dipesh Pabari from FlipFlopi  said, “We’ve supported and set up innovation hubs across East Africa, to embed waste management and circular economy solutions at a grassroots level to reuse and recycle plastic waste. Our experiences range from setting up a waste collection system to creating a recycling workshop in Lamu with Takataka Heroes. 

 

We’ve also been working along the south coast of Kenya and the shores of Lake Victoria with various groups. More recently in Nairobi, we’ve been partnering with the University of Portsmouth to assist waste management start-ups in Mukuru. Here we’ve been able to gain so much more understanding of urban waste management issues.”

The toolkit is inclusive and user friendly, guiding entrepreneurs’ step by step as they build their business by pooling community resources.

Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust , Professor of Global Business Sustainability and Strategy, University of Portsmouth

The toolkit covers the steps needed to set up a sustainable business with plastic waste – including:

  • Engaging with the community - waste management cannot succeed without the support of the community. It is their needs that are being supported.
  • Planning your finances – a step by step guide to fundraising both small scale and large scale.
  • Tackling logistics from finding a waste collection site, securing the correct licenses and permits, sourcing the waste and record keeping.
  • Technical aspects such as the different types of plastic waste and the best equipment needed to recycle it.
  • Developing a business plan that incorporates a business strategy, business model and a clear plan is vital for success. 

Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust, Faculty Sustainability Champion and Professor of Global Business Sustainability and Strategy, University of Portsmouth, said: “The toolkit is inclusive and user friendly, guiding entrepreneurs’ step by step as they build their business by pooling community resources. It will be very effective in helping to create value out of plastic waste, with the resources and cultural practices of less advantaged communities.”  

The authors of the guide understand that recycling isn’t the entire solution to this global problem. They believe that stronger policies on plastic production and disposal need to be put into place. However, in the meantime, they are convinced this ‘toolkit’ will help to significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up polluting urban environments in regions such as East Africa.

A copy of the guide can be downloaded here.