While almost everyone can acknowledge that plastic usage is harmful yet rampant, it is only when one accounts for it in their daily life that the gravity of the situation begins to emerge. According to a 2015 study by the World Economic Forum, nearly 322 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide. The numbers have only escalated ever since. It is not merely the consumption but also the excessive litter caused by mass dumping.
Various programmes and drives have been organised to help clean the land and water pollution caused by incorrect plastic disposal. While the attempt is just a small step, it’s a step nevertheless. Following suit with a creative twist, various nations and brands have started a kind of plastic barter system. Plastic waste can be exchanged for various commodities and services in an attempt to contribute towards the clean up of raging pollution.
The most recent case is of an initiative started by the Nishkam Khalsa Sewa and the alumni group of Goethals Memorial School in Siliguri. According to which, free food is provided to the needy in exchange for 500 grams of plastic waste, including bottles, bags and other miscellaneous plastic items. The identical concept has been introduced by ‘Garbage Cafe’ in Chhattisgarh a few weeks ago to encourage citizens to keep the streets plastic-free.
The movement has moved beyond commodities to even free services. Surabaya scheme in Indonesia, the world’s second largest marine polluter is a prime example of this. According to this initiative, people could exchange trash in exchange for a bus ride. Three large bottles, five medium ones or ten plastic cups can be exchanged for an hour long ride. So far, the scheme has been declared a hit with high participation.
A similar idea has been adopted by Rome on a trial basis. The same was implemented with the help of automation. Machines installed at metro stations were programmed to collect trash and issue online credit to their ticket purchasing application such as MyCicero and TabNet, using which passengers could redeem a ticket. Each bottle would provide the user with 0.05 Euro in credit.
Assam saw service exchange of the same kind when couple Mazin Mukhtar and Parmita Sarma began their unique school Akshar Forum at Pamohi. At this school, children brought collected waste once or twice every week in order to receive lessons. No other remuneration was demanded from them. The plastic provided by the students is then used to construct makeshift bricks by stuffing packets and wrappers in the bottles; each ‘brick’ then used to build walkways at the school or other similar purposes.
In 2014, a social commerce experiment called the Plastic Bank was tested in Haiti. As an incentive to reduce the plastic waste in the nation while simultaneously strengthening economic status, the ‘bank’ provided locals with money credit or commodities such as cooking oil, tuition for school amongst other benefits in exchange for a contribution of waste. Upon delivering the waste to a locally-run recycling plant, the credit was transferred on a Blockchain app to be availed by the user. The application was used to maintain records and consistent performance.
Many brands have also adopted similar methods where plastic wrappers or bottles are collected to be recycled in exchange for a free packet of noodles or bottle of soft drink for the consumer.
The mentioned schemes are known to have forwarded the waste to ensure proper disposal of plastic or recycling of the same. While various other attempts have been made to limit the waste pollution, it is this barter system that seems to be emerging victorious for obvious reasons. It’s a win-win as participants gain services or commodities for the easily available waste, while scheme-makers get a hand in the cleaning up while contributing to society.