“Dow Jones suffers single largest daily loss in history” – this BBC headline jostled me out of my near-sleep state on the eve of Monday, March 16th, 2020. I jumped out of bed and rang my co-founders immediately.
Svanika, Adi, and I sat down and analyzed how the unfolding global crisis might impede the roll-out of our Plastic Credit Platform. “If the economy fails, no company would want to add another cost item,” said Svanika. She was right to be worried that night – at that point, all we had was a concept with no traction to show for it.
Just 9 months later, 90+ brands have joined our platform, 11 rePurpose Impact Projects are operating across 8 countries, and we are removing 1.9 million pounds of plastic waste every year. Here’s the behind-the-scenes story of how we took a Plastic Credit concept and turned it into a thriving, global ecosystem under the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
From Mumbai’s Landfills to a Global Platform
Let’s dial it back to 2017. Our journey started at Deonar Dumping Ground, one of the world’s largest landfills on the outskirts of Mumbai, India. There, Svanika, Adi, and I were met with an arresting view: to one side, towering mountains of plastic, and to the other, the city’s endless, concrete skyline. It was at that exact spot where we asked ourselves: how can the world bridge the gap between these two very different realities into one collaborative ecosystem?
Our approach was simple: On the one hand, thousands of waste management initiatives worldwide desperately needed funding to scale up their work, and on the other hand, millions of consumer brands were looking to take responsibility for their plastic footprint – why not connect the two and create an innovative financing instrument to catalyze impact overnight?
That’s how rePurpose Global was born. Since day one, our mission has been to make planetary action delightfully simple for purposeful people and brands of any size, anywhere. Through Plastic Credits, we give anybody the power, platform, and pathway to take meaningful environmental action and go Plastic Neutral by financing innovators on the frontlines of fighting for our planet’s future.
We Made Impact Accessible for Brands Worldwide
To empower that mission, we built one of the world’s largest plastic waste recovery platforms where any consumer or business can go Plastic Neutral by funding the removal of as much plastic waste from nature as they use. From artist collectives and global consultancies to bamboo diapers and natural pet food, we are helping companies worldwide create systemic change towards a future free from plastic waste in nature.
On January 1st, 2020, we had just 1 company on our platform, and as I am writing this piece, we are so proud to have welcomed 90+ companies into our global community this year. From up-and-coming brands to Fortune 500 firms, we enabled businesses small and large to ignite change overnight.
“The world isn’t changed by giant leaps, but by innovative steps in the right direction,” said Christopher Fous, Co-Founder & Director of Innovations at WooBamboo. His company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of bamboo toothbrushes and became an early brand adopter of our Plastic Credit Platform. Chris is right – there is no silver bullet solution to any of our environmental crises, but if every brand in the world stepped up to do their bit and go Plastic Neutral today, plastic waste in nature will become a phenomenon of the past.
We Built One of the World’s Largest Waste Recovery Platforms
To fulfill our promise to people and companies going Plastic Neutral, we had to scale our impact at no less than full speed.
When COVID hit, everybody thought that the pandemic would grind our clean-up operations to a halt. Instead, we stood resilient and doubled down on our collaborative thesis of adding value to talented entrepreneurs with decades of experience in building local circular economy systems. From Nairobi to Goa, we rigorously scouted, vetted, and financed promising waste management recycling social enterprises to systematically scale up their impact.
This theory of change paid off and enabled us to achieve change beyond our wildest imaginations. Today, we are proud to have 11 rePurpose Impact Projects running across 3 continents. From rural villages in coastal India to the booming metropolises of Kenya and Colombia, we are enabling the removal of over 1.9 million pounds of plastic waste otherwise landfilled, burned, or flushed into nature.
We Supported Waste Worker Families Through Their Toughest Moments
As our environmental impact grew exponentially, we witnessed just how interconnected plastic pollution is to the marginalization of disadvantaged communities across the world.
As COVID struck and entire nations went into lockdown, social distancing was a privilege most waste pickers could not afford. “A virus we can fight but hunger, we cannot,” said Maurya, a daily contractor in Pune. Millions of unsung environmental heroes put themselves in the line of fire because if they didn’t, hunger would have taken them out before the pandemic did.
In response, we rapidly mobilized our global community and convened a Pandemic Relief Coalition for Waste Workers with four rePurpose Impact Projects in India. Together, we organized an effort that raised tens of thousands of dollars and 806 waste worker families across the country with urgent food and medical supplies throughout the lockdown.
Nonetheless, we recognize that relief for the few does not equal sustained empowerment for all. Aside from this effort, we also strengthened the socioeconomic safeguards of all our ongoing projects through ethical wages, protective equipment, and healthcare provision – and we are committed to doing even more. The bottom line is: tackling the plastic waste epidemic is as much about improving our planet’s health as it is the well-being of everyone living on it.
We Established Plastic Credits as a Driving Force for Circularity
No environmental concept takes shape without a robust network of verifiers and amplifiers, which is why we have been investing so much in creating an array of strategic partnerships across the sustainability ecosystem this 2020. Through these global partners, we are rapidly cementing plastic credits as a force for good in the environmental zeitgeist. Here are some of our favorite partnerships from the year:
Verra and the 3R Initiative: We are working closely with Verra’s multi-stakeholder initiative to create the Plastic Standard, a series of industry protocols that aims to define and govern the plastic credit market for decades to come.
Credit Suisse: As the SDG 14 Winner of the Lead2030 Challenge, we are collaborating with Marisa Drew, Credit Suisse’s Chief Sustainability Officer, and her Impact Advisory and Finance Department to popularize plastic credits within the bank’s global network.
Dalberg and Saathi Pads: In line with Dalberg’s commitment to plastic neutrality and its ambition to support innovative climate finance, the company is enabling us to pilot Plastic Avoidance Credits with Saathi Pads, where funding from Dalberg is helping subsidize the cost of distributing plastic-free, 100% bamboo sanitary pads and educating communities about the importance of feminine hygiene across Gujarat, India.
UCapture: We are working with the talented Avery Michaelson and his green-tech platform to launch rePurpose Rewards in 2021, a Google Chrome extension that enables anybody to unlock plastic removal for free while shopping online. Stay tuned!
What’s Next for rePurpose Global?
Looking back at that fateful night in March, none of us could have envisioned the extraordinary events that followed for the world and our venture. Even with a pandemic daring us to fail, we stood bold, worked hard, and proved that nothing was going to hold back the potential of rePurpose Global’s platform and the world’s universal ambition for igniting planetary action.
Here is our 2021 impact goal: we aim to enable the removal of TWENTY MILLION POUNDS of plastic waste from nature by the end of the year.
We are so excited to continue expanding our global community of purposeful people and companies – together, we can unleash the power of plastic neutrality to reduce waste, revive lives, and restore nature’s balance. With love, see you next year!
Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] – our door is always open for collaboration. Also, sign up for our monthly Let’s Talk Trash newsletter to keep in touch with us!