UNITED STATES August 27 2016 1:29 PM
NEW YORK (Scrap register): Pollution and waste accumulation is one of the world's biggest problems yet to be resolved. Despite the plethora of information and awareness that has been generated surrounding recycling issues in the past several years, it has not been enough. Few people are conscious of the impact of not recycling, and the people most affected by this lack of action are actually the ones who often have the least control. Most of the time, people in low-income communities are left to deal with trash due to the lack of a proper waste management system.
The analogy of spreading good through small acts of kindness turns into the opposite in the case of pollution: it starts with small acts not carried out, like not sorting waste before it ends up in landfills, or not properly disposing of waste at all. This, slowly but surely lays a foundation of pollution, with environmental and health problems quickly following.
Waste accumulation in urban areas is a proliferating problem in many developing countries. The most affected regions are generally located in the outskirts of big cities, urban crowded spaces, where residents live below the poverty line. Waste accumulation damages the environment both aesthetically and physically, leading to health problems and overall, affecting quality of life of the residents.
Here's how the recycling industry currently works in Mexico: There are no proper waste management systems in slums, or a formal recycling industry. The revenue generated from waste and recycling, right now worth 3 billion USD, ends up in just a few hands, creating an unfair system for people living in urban crowded spaces. A small portion of inhabitants who live in these areas have seen the opportunity in recycling and attempted to make a living out of it - they are called "pepenadores," and they pick trash and sell it to a "chatarrero," who sells it to a recycling factory. But both "pepenadores" and "chatarreros" receive very little value for the trash.
So if the people in the low income communities are not receiving much value from the waste, at the end of the day who are the few key players that are keeping most of the wealth in the recycling industry?
Today, recycling has become one of the most profitable businesses in the world: in Mexico alone, there is a 24 billion USD market opportunity in the recyclable waste industry. However, this opportunity is not being capitalized upon. The problem is that there are not enough opportunities, and the hard work of the people already involved is not being fairly compensated.
Right now, the waste industry in Mexico is controlled by 1% of Mexico's richest population, who keeps most of the profit and have a network of trash pickers at their disposal. In addition, trash industries are often controlled by mafias, which keep most of the benefits instead of helping their neighbors and their country progress economically.
Watching this problem grow has led us (4 Mexican recent college graduates) to create PROtrash, a startup that creates opportunities for people living in slums by increasing the value of an average person's recyclable waste.
After studying the process of waste in urban slums, we realized that families living in these areas do not see the real value of their recyclable waste, besides the existing "pepenadores" role. We are spreading awareness and creating opportunities for people in our country to see the value their trash has economically and environmentally.
PROtrash will impact the entire recycling value chain, and unlock the potential of 24 billion dollars of value found in recyclable materials. We will revolutionize the waste management process in urban slums, create financial incentives for every person to pick their own trash, dramatically increase the volume of trash picked, and then re-distribute income across the value chain, effectively doubling the income of people in slums and dump hubs. Our system creates several multiplier effects as well, such as creating environmental knowledge, becoming an economic accelerator, and most importantly, improving the quality of life of people living in urban slums.