Over three billion people – that’s almost half the planet’s population, live without proper waste management. And one of the key global concerns now is plastic waste management – especially surrounding single-use plastics and plastics affecting our oceans and marine life.

While the devastating effect of plastic waste on our oceans is well known, there is a human element to the plastic crisis, which is rarely discussed.

Some of the world’s most marginalised people pick untreated waste to try to make a living. These waste pickers, often live below the poverty line and work in appalling conditions. Yet they form a critical line of defence in stopping plastics from entering our rivers and oceans.

On the 11th of this month, which was World Fair Trade Day, The Body Shop launched its FIRST Community Trade recycled plastic initiative that highlights the lesser-known, human side of the plastic crisis to drive social change and help empower people at the same time.

Community Trade is The Body Shop’s bespoke and independently-verified fair trade programme and this recycled plastic initiative is in partnership with Plastics For Change, Hasiru Dala and Hasiru Dala Innovations in Bengaluru, India.

This year, The Body Shop will purchase 250 tonnes of Community Trade recycled plastic to use in nearly three million 250ml haircare bottles. The bottles will contain 100% recycled plastic (excluding the bottle caps), of which 15% will be Community Trade recycled plastic, and the remainder will be recycled plastic from European sources.

In three years’ time, the aim is to purchase over 900 tonnes of Community Trade recycled plastic and help empower up to 2,500 waste pickers in Bengaluru. They will receive a fair price for their work, a regular income, access to better working conditions and services such as education, financial loans and healthcare.

To mark this launch, a giant artwork of a female Indian waste picker – made using recycled plastic collected by waste pickers in Bengaluru, was unveiled for public display on 10th and 11th May at London’s Borough Market .

To find out more about Plastics For Change, an organisation in Bengaluru, India, go here.