How to Manage Plastic Waste in a Socially Responsible Way

TONTOTON Waste Pickers

As with all things, collecting, recycling, and regulating plastics is much more complicated than you might think.

Corporations aren’t the only ones who rely upon recyclable plastics for their income. Waste pickers all over the world make a living by collecting recyclable plastics and selling them. Because of this, we need to make sure our projects that are intended to protect the environment don’t inadvertently take income from waste pickers who desperately need it.

In order to better understand how we can support waste pickers while still lessening our plastic footprint, here’s a brief look at the social impact of collecting plastic and what we can do to support waste pickers.

What is the social impact of collecting plastic?

When we talk about the social impact of collecting plastic, we’re talking about those who collect plastic for a living: waste pickers.

As we discuss and work toward plastic neutrality, we need to keep in mind that there are those who depend upon plastic waste in order to survive. We, as a world community, cannot forget these groups, and we must come up with ways to support them so that they can continue to finance themselves and their families in safe, reliable ways.

Who are the waste pickers?

Waste pickers are people who pick up recyclable plastics (whether ocean-bound plastics along shorelines and rivers, plastics found in dumpsters and garbage cans, or plastics in landfills) and sell them. Waste pickers are typically of all ages, and they usually come from low-income families.

Although waste pickers are essential to plastic clean up and keeping plastics out of the ocean, they work in harsh, unprotected environments. They often lack support, and they are in desperate need of things like protective equipment, healthcare, and other basic needs.

Why is it important to support waste pickers?

Waste pickers are an essential part of preventing ocean plastic. Much of the plastic that they collect is ocean-bound, which means that, without their intervention, those plastics likely would have ended up in the sea.

Waste pickers also help to ensure that recyclable plastics that have been thrown away are properly processed. Just like waste pickers need recyclable plastics to survive, we need waste pickers to help save our oceans and environment and keep our world clear of plastic waste.

How can we support waste pickers?

At TONTOTON, we work hard to support local waste pickers. We understand the importance of their work, and we seek to create a better work environment through providing PPE, organizing healthcare, and ensuring fair compensation.

Rather than organizing volunteer plastic pickups—which, although well-intentioned, is not a daily practice and not as effective—we work hard to ensure that local waste pickers have the support that any other worker would enjoy. We know how important their labor is to the community, both local and worldwide, and that they deserve to be treated with care.

Why should your company care?

These days, it’s important for companies big and small to pay attention to their corporate social responsibility: the integration of social and environmental concerns within their practices.

Your corporate social responsibility isn’t just the right thing to do, but it also shows your consumers that investing in your product means investing in social and environmental programs that will better the world.

As you seek to achieve plastic neutrality, pay attention to the programs that your plastic credits fund. These programs shouldn’t just sustainably process plastic waste; they should also support waste pickers and other groups and individuals who depend upon plastics to survive.

Choosing to purchase plastic credits through TONTOTON ensures just that. For more information about our social impact, click here.

When considering plastic waste and its removal, it’s easy to forget that plastic waste holds importance in many communities. We can’t immediately eliminate all plastic waste because if we did, thousands of people would be out of work.

Instead, as we work toward better plastic responsibility, we must support our waste pickers and the communities who depend upon plastic waste to survive. Plastic waste is a complicated issue, and if we’re to continue to address it in an accountable way, the social impact of our methods must hold equal importance to the responsible management of plastic waste.o