In the latest edition of TeamLease Education Foundation's CSR Dialogues, Rajesh Ayapilla, Director, CSR and Sustainability for India and South West Asia, Coca-Cola, chatted with Joel Fernadez, Chief of Partnerships & Strategy, TeamLease Education Foundation on a number of urgent topics related to waste management, recycling, the scope for scaling in this space and improving the livelihoods of those on the frontlines.
Back in 2019, Coca Cola, one of the world’s largest beverage manufacturers, pledged to recycle 100% of its packaging materials by 2025. It’s towards this goal that the company directs a lot of its CSR resources. And over the years, Coke’s sustainability leaders have built deep relationships with members of the government, local municipalities and RWAs.
Ayapilla shared his view that while governments have invested in waste management infra, the challenge to recycling higher volumes of our waste lies in changing the public’s behaviour. Which is why Coca Cola invests heavily in working closely in education and awareness-building - particularly with resident welfare associations in large housing projects, which collectively generate a high volume of recyclable plastic and other waste.
For more on Coca-Cola’s efforts in creating public awareness across Indian cities, click HERE.
Ayapilla highlighted the learnings from a 3-year long project in Gurgaon, called Sahas. It was found that even though municipal waste-collection vans had 3 separate compartments for dry waste, wet waste and bio waste, residents from even high-end housing colonies (where the people would be well educated) didn’t adequately segregate their garbage, leading to the mixed waste going into landfills.
Talking about scaling waste management operations, Ayapilla shared his experiences with Project Prithvi. This was a partnership between Coke, the UNDP and one of the company's biggest bottlers - Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages. This 26-city project scaled up to 33 material recovery facilities. But here too, though investments in time, money and infra were high - the biggest hurdle is bad waste-segregation at the source, i.e., by residents. This demonstrates the extreme importance of public awareness programs.
To know more about Project Prithvi, click HERE.
Ayapilla also underscored the critical need for awareness-building across another set of stakeholders in the waste management ecosystem - the waste collectors themselves. Many of these youngsters are ill-educated and mostly unbanked. Hence they are unaware of the many government welfare schemes available to them, which offset the effects of working in unhealthy/unhygienic environments. Apart from making these youngsters aware of their entitlements, they also require bank accounts to be opened, Aadhar cards to be made, etc, just to avail government benefits.
In response to Joel Fernandez’s queries on any large-scale successful awareness-building project, Ayapilla shared Coca-Cola’s joint work with Zepto. This interesting intervention involved Zepto delivery personnel being used to not only deliver bottles and other groceries that were ordered via the app, but also retrieve the recyclable plastics over the course of subsequent visits to the same homes.
Learn more about the success of the Coca-Cola + Zepto project HERE.
Finally, the dialogue explored opportunities for partnerships to tackle the urgent need to manage waste better. Ayapilla suggested having projects where ‘reverse bottle dispensing’ machines could work as collection points for plastic bottles, where those returning bottles earn ‘green’ credit points that could add up to getting T-shirts or merchandise with a green message. This would not only spread awareness quickly, but also incentivise environmentally ethical behaviour.
The other opportunity for partnerships that Ayapilla highlighted is to build a corpora or fund to provide healthcare and other benefits for the workers in this domain. With the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) obligations that manufacturers now have to comply with, many organizations approach waste management agencies to fulfill their EPR obligations by way of a Credit purchase model.
To discover how your CSR efforts can be more effective by building partnerships with other organisations, click HERE.