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Womenpreneurs4Plastic: protecting the environment and empowering women in India, Nepal, Indonesia and the Philippines

Excessive use of plastic and the resulting pollution is a global and ever-increasing problem with severe consequences for people, animals, and the environment. Many Asian countries, including our project countries India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Nepal, are being seriously impacted: whole towns, rivers and coastal regions are drowning in rubbish. Most consumer goods are packaged in plastic and the packaging ends up in the streets or in the rivers. There is a lack of awareness of the damaging effects of plastic waste. In many areas, there is also a lack of infrastructure for the suitable disposal and recycling of plastic.

The cross-regional project ‘Womenpreneurs4Plastic’ addresses the causes of the plastic problem and, at the same time, supports women in India, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines in their quest for a self-determined life. In our ‘Womenpreneurs4Plastic’ groups, marginalised women are being involved in every stage of the plastic recycling value chain. They educate their communities about the advantages of the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ approach, manage local waste collection points and operate recycling work shops. In this way, these women can sustainably generate income, learn entrepreneurial behaviour and protect the environment at the same time.

The plastic problem: Excessive use and environmental pollution

Excessive use of plastic and the resulting pollution is a global and ever-increasing problem with severe consequences for the environment, people and animals. Many Asian countries, including India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Nepal, are being severely impacted due to rapid urbanisation and ambitious development: whole towns, rivers and coastal regions are are polluted with rubbish. COVID-19 has further exacerbated the situation with the increased use of masks, disinfectant bottles and packaging from goods ordered online. The causes of this excessive plastic use and ensuing plastic pollution are diverse:

There is a lack of awareness of the damaging effects of plastic waste.

Many people in our project areas do not know that plastic and micro-plastics have severe consequences for the health of both humans and animals as well as for the environment and for their own livelihoods. In particular marginalised groups, unofficial settlers and indigent persons have had little to no experience with environmental topics.

Attitudes and behaviours regarding plastic use and disposal result in the severe pollution of towns, villages and coasts.

In many Asian countries, most foods, hygiene articles and consumer goods are packaged in plastic, often in small bags so that even indigent persons can afford the portions. This plastic waste is often disposed of in the streets or in the rivers. There is a lack of awareness of how and why to reduce plastic, which leads to large amounts of unsuitably disposed waste.

There are not enough local plastic collection points and plastic recycling centres and there is little incentive for the population to dispose of their plastic there. Also, plastic is seen as waste and not used as a resource.

Local waste-disposal infrastructures are poor and there are no local plastic-disposal systems. Existing recycling centres are generally of industrial proportions and are therefore only found near congested urban areas. Due to the high transport costs to these centres and the numerous middlemen, unofficial rubbish collectors earn very little. As a result, there is no incentive to collect plastic waste and take it to the collection points or recycling centres. So far, ideas about how to locally produce and sell useful products made from recycled or upcycled plastic materials have only rarely been implemented.

The precarious situation of poor and marginalised women

In our project countries India, Nepal, Indonesia and the Philippines, many women are living in extremely precarious situations and tend to be more severely affected by poverty.

In urban slums and in rural areas in particular, there are few lucrative income opportunities for women, as they are only rarely given any business know-how and they are denied access to the means of production and to credit. As a result, many women work unofficially and have irregular, low incomes.

At the same time, it is often women who maintain the cleanliness of their villages or neighbourhoods. However, when these voluntary waste-management activities are made official and remunerated, it tends to be predominantly men who are employed by waste disposal companies or go into business themselves. This means that women’s involvement in the areas of hygiene and waste disposal is limited to voluntary community work and working unofficially as rubbish collectors. To date, they have not been able to generate sufficient income from plastic as a resource.

We aim to reduce plastic pollution in the participating communities in India, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines and to improve the income opportunities of young marginalised women.

Educating people about the negative effects of plastic pollution and promoting knowledge of the 3R approach ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’

  • Implementation of information campaigns, training courses and workshops in communities, schools, church communities and fishing villages
  • Individual door-to-door consultations and support with the correct separation and disposal of household waste

Involving women as ‘Womenpreneurs4Plastic’ in every stage of the plastic recycling value chain

  • Forming ‘Women Plastic Entrepreneur Groups’
  • Training groups of women in areas such as the management, leadership and dynamics of groups or the development of business plans for the establishment of sustainable structures
  • Female-run plastic waste collection points, managed by ‘Womenpreneurs4Plastic’
  • Establishing and managing plastic recycling and upcycling work shops
  • Market analysis, product development and marketing

Promoting exchange and networking with important stakeholders

  • Womenpreneurs4Plastic groups visiting one another
  • Meetings and visits with relevant key players from the recycling industry, business, retail, and local governmental bodies
  • International exchange with relevant actors

Waste picker Nani in Indonesia

Nani is an informal waste picker. For more than ten years, she has been searching the landfill for recyclable waste, especially plastic. This is because she can sell it to so-called "waste collectors," middlemen who then process it for a profit. But the money is not enough to make ends meet. Read how our project "Womenpreneurs4Plastic" helps Nani to stand up for her rights and better living conditions.

Read more

Project data

Project regions: India (Tamil Nadu), Nepal (Kathmandu), Indonesia (Central Sulawesi), Philippines (Manila)

Duration: 01.11.2021 – 31.10.2024

Donors: BMZ, ADH

Partners: Pro-Vision (India), YEU: Yakkum Emergency Unit (Indonesia), RSDC: Rural Self-Reliance Development Center (Nepal), OMP: Order of Malta Philippines (Philippines)

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