According to an OECD Report (2022) on Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options, the world is producing twice as much plastic waste as two decades ago, with the bulk of it ending up in landfills, incinerated, or leaking into the environment, and only 9 percent successfully recycled (OECD). As per an estimate published by the Central Pollution Control Board of India, the country generated 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic waste in 2018-2019. While increase in plastic waste is definitely a cause of alarm. Another problem is lack of an effective solid waste management system in all the states of India. UNDP – India remarked that that only one fourth of the plastic waste is recycled.
The Government of India has undertaken several initiatives to reduce and recycle plastic waste, but more is yet to be done. In this alarming situation, it is essential to look for out-of-the-box solutions for plastic waste management and to encourage discussions on tackling the problem of plastic pollution. Several NGOs and private companies have launched initiatives to reduce and recycle plastic waste in India. The need of the hour is greater awareness about these initiatives for scalability and replicability across cities of India.
Towards a Solution
Considering the above situation, the Make the Case competition was launched in 2020. It was conceptualised and implemented by the Centre for Social Sensitivity and Action (CSSA), the Goa Institute of Management, in collaboration with Commitments Accelerator for Plastic Pollution (CAPP), the Ocean Recovery Alliance (ORA) and the Indian Plastic Institute (IPI).
The objective of the competition was to generate awareness about and discuss ways to tackle plastic waste in India. The aim was to nudge youth to take an interest in issues related to sustainable development and make them the green crusaders in their respective institutions. The other major objective of the competition was to showcase the power of Public-Private Partnership for tackling plastic waste in India. The competition also attempted to bring attention to the very best initiatives which can be replicated across the country, quickly and fairly easily, and avoid wasting valuable time and resources trying to “reinvent the wheel.” Moreover, the competition served as a platform for showcasing innovations that generate plastic waste reduction results; and to provide global recognition to organizations who are working towards building a sustainable society.
The completion was rolled out into two seasons:
In Season 1, the competition focused on programmes and innovations that have already been put into practice and have the potential to be scaled, rather than focusing on entirely new start-up concepts. Over 165 teams registered for this competition. The final round of the competition was held on March 2021 where 11 teams received the awards. The award consisted of a prize money, an opportunity for internship with CAPP and the publication of a case study in the reputed journal of the Indian Plastics Institute.
The award money of US$5,000 was sponsored by the Chellarum Foundation. The award money was distributed among 11 teams. This apart, the winning case studies were published
As part of the competition, a panel discussion was also organized to better connect with the industry experts and stakeholders who are doing outstanding work in the sphere of waste management and recycling of the plastic waste in India. After the competition, the student groups also created a five-episode web series comprised of interviews from organizations whose initiatives had been displayed in the final round of the competition.
The success of Season 1 of the competition led the organizers to expand the dialogue on sustainability and plastic recycling among youth beyond the territories of India. In Season 2, the competition saw participation from students from India and the Indian subcontinent.
In Season 2, the scope of Make the Case Competition was expanded to include three themes:
- 1: Identify and showcase an existing proven project/programme that reduces plastic waste near a waterway
- 2: Identify and share a new/recent innovation for industry to scale
- 3: Identify a plastic waste problem in your locality: Suggest an innovative and sustainable solution
Over 50 teams registered for the second phase of the competition. In the final round 5 teams received the awards (certificate of participation and opportunity for internship). The top 5 case studies will be published in the reputed journal of Indian Plastics Institute.
The competition gave wider publicity to the organizations whose work was showcased by the students. The high-impact work of these organizations was published in the reputed journal of the Indian Plastic Institute to ensure greater outreach of the best practices in plastic waste reduction in India. CAPP (one of our collaborating partners) has launched a similar competition (Make the Case – Asia) in Hong Kong, in association with City University of Hong Kong. Two of CAPP’s Flagship Nations, Curaçao and Fiji, have expressed interest in replicating the ‘Make the Case’ competition for the Caribbean and Pacific Islands.
In both seasons, the case study competition provided the participating students an opportunity to put their leadership skills into action and to strengthen their communication, teamwork, networking, presentation, and strategic skills. The purpose of the competition was to educate students about sustainability in an innovative way. It allowed students to research on sustainability and interact with organizations working on solid waste management to gain first-hand knowledge about plastic pollution, recycling plastic waste and its contribution to labour and economy.
The competition followed a design-thinking approach taking students on a sensing journey and giving them the opportunity to ideate and produce strategies for scalability and replicability of high impact initiatives on reducing plastic waste and plastic recycling. The competition "flips the script" of traditional learning within the classroom – it allows students to learn from the field and nudges them into thinking out of the box.
The competition is unique as it combines knowledge generation, knowledge transfer and action. The learnings from the competition have shown that plastic waste has a significant implication for public health. Also, the high impact initiatives highlighted by the winning teams showcase how recycling of plastic waste leads to employment generation and production of products which are low cost and can be used in settings where resources are scarce, thereby having a positive effect on many sustainable development goals.
The Make the Case competition was conceptualized to expand the dialogue on sustainability and sustainable development both within and beyond GIM. This competition allowed GIM to work with new national (IPI) and international collaborators (CAPP and Ocean Recovery Alliance). Moreover, the competition helped create resource materials for knowledge transfer on plastic waste and reuse and recycling of plastic waste in India.