Beating plastic pollution with business innovation

World Environment Day 2018

At SEED, we celebrate and support innovative enterprises around the globe who integrate social and environmental objectives into their business models. On World Environment Day, we would like to give a shout out to enterprises who #BeatPlasticPollution every day through their innovative products and eco-inclusive value chains.

These days we are flooded with stories about how waste – in particular, single-use ‘disposable’ plastic – ends up in our landfills and waterways. From colourful plastic drinking straws and takeaway boxes to polythene bags, dangerous plastics are readily available and easy to consume without second thought. These plastics typically cost nothing to the consumer and are easily discarded.

50 per cent of all the plastic that we use is single-use or disposable, with 1 million plastic bottles purchased globally every minute.[1] As of 2017, approximately 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics have been produced worldwide, of which only 9 per cent were recycled, 12 per cent incinerated and 79 per cent thrown into landfills or merely littered into our surroundings.[2]

We are consuming and disposing these plastics at environmentally unsustainable rates. As consumers, we must do our best to opt out of single-use plastics as we join in the UN Environment’s campaign today. However, individuals can only make a dent in minimising waste, when the products we purchase result from resource-intensive production processes and continue to use harmful plastics.

Beating plastic pollution

Enterprises from Nairobi to Lima have innovated responsible, closed-loop waste management systems and products that are environmentally responsible and socially inclusive.

At SEED we work with many exemplary small and medium-sized enterprises who earn profits by reducing and diverting waste from our natural environment while creating opportunities for the sustainable development of their communities.

In Nairobi, EcoPost processes plastic waste into environmentally friendly and durable fencing posts. The enterprise has helped not only to reduce waste on public streets and open fields but also to diminish reliance on primary wood resources.

Eco post Ghana

The women at All Women Recycling in Cape Town turn discarded plastic bottles into unique gift boxes which are sold internationally. Their efforts contribute to a cleaner township by strengthening environmental awareness, especially in schools which are collection points for plastic bottles.

All women recycling SA

Life Out of Plastic (LOOP), a 100% female-owned organisation from Lima, designs and sells products made from rPET fibre. LOOP also runs community clean-up activities and provides educational services to the private sector and school groups.

In Bobo-Dioulasso, GAFREH, a Recycling Centre for Used Plastic Bags, has developed a unique technique to weave fashion accessories, decorative objects and clothing out of used plastic bags. The community-based initiative aims to clear the streets of Burkina Faso of plastic waste while providing income and training to marginalised women.

In the riverside town of Mooi River in Kwazulu-Natal, the Mooi River Recycling Centre (MRRC) works with NGO groundWork and a local municipality to formalise the waste picking workforce. Workers are provided with shelter, protective clothing and technical equipment to collect waste from local landfills to be compressed and sold to recycling companies.

In Watamu, Kenya, Watamu Solid Waste Management and Recycling addresses the growing challenge of non-biodegradable waste, which pollutes the streets and beaches and threatens marine life. The collected waste is sorted; and plastics are processed into crushed material and sold to recycling businesses in Mombasa and China, while glass is recycled for construction use and craft materials.

 Watamu Solid Waste Management Recycling

These enterprises are only a small selection of many sustainable small and growing businesses that promote responsible waste management and create economic and social development opportunities. These enterprises create value from waste and lead the global transition to circular economies that recover and regenerate plastic.

Do you know any enterprises in your community working to #BeatPlasticPollution?

Share stories of enterprises beating plastic pollution with us via Facebook and Twitter!


Find out more about other eco-inclusive SEED Award winners here.

Find out more about the various SEED Support programmes for local enterprises here.