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TAKATARI: Connecting the global south with the circular economy

A sustainability platform for the textile industry, a biodegradable packaging made of hemp and mycelium, an independent sourcing platform for sustainable packaging, a digital marketplace for used electrical and electronic equipment, a technology-driven platform to connect informal waste pickers to the recycled plastic market and a technological machine to analyse plastic composition – these are the ideas developed by the six Green Alley Award finalists of 2023.

Let’s continue with introducing Takatari from Estonia.

The startup developed a software that aims to connect the informal sector of the Global South to the circular economy, in order to build inclusive circular supply chains by providing software and services related to chain of custody documentation and brokerage of recycled plastics and plastic credits. Plastic pollution is one of the most urgent problems in our society, not only because of its impact on the environment but also because of the communities/world´s ability to deal with it. In developing countries, especially in Asia and in Africa, the plastic problem is raised by the inefficiency or inability of waste collection. Their solution will bring the circular economy and the global south closer! 

Congratulations on your new website launched this month. Would you say that comprehensive marketing is necessary to promote the circular economy and your idea in particular? 

A certain amount of marketing will always be needed – though with a B2B offering we are less end consumer marketing driven compared to a B2C company. This said, there is a need to inform public opinion and brands of the benefits of certified Plastic Credits and how they can help promote an inclusive circular economy.

How did you come up with the idea and when did you realize that there is a need for such a platform? 

The platform is a by-product, originally the idea was about supply chain transparency and decentralized identities for informal waste pickers to help them achieve social and financial inclusion by earning a global living wage and to get access to banking. 

Initially, the supply chain transparency was motivated by Steffen’s previous business Ulinzi Conservation Coffee. To show who is involved in the coffee from bean to cup he asked Johannes to build a digital twin so that every buying customer understands the cost breakdown and stakeholder involved. Secondly, in the process, Steffen  got to know Johannes better and his work with gravity and their case studies. Steffen saw a parallel of the needs for refugees or unbanked people and the informal waste pickers.

Finally, Steffen invited Pierre to join him on a trip to Kenya to meet Kenya’s biggest recycling organization and to witness the situation on Dandora dumpsite and to meet Johannes.

Your main idea is connecting the informal sector of the Global South with the Circular Economy. What are the challenges you have encountered so far in connecting these two realities?

Creating transparency threatens the current working system with a lot of corruption and other grey areas. One of the main challenges concerns digitalization: it takes out the middlemen and also threatens the status quo. Waste pickers are poor, depending on the region they don’t have phones at all, not speaking about smartphones. When they have phones, access to data or power is the next problem. Moreover, the digital payment situation is different from country to country and a significant share of informal workers can’t read and write.

Another challenge is linked to the waste pickers and how to get in touch with them. We don’t have credibility, so we need to engage with waste collection and recycling organizations. To do so, we need to solve their pain points so that they introduce us to the waste pickers.

Having the access secured to the organizations and waste pickers we need to bottom-up access the value chain, eventually engage with brands. Those are multi-billion companies, the approach is totally different and we’re asking ourselves what we have to offer to them.

Testing the working hypotheses around our different offerings and revenue streams, price points, etc. was not easy to come up with and test.

Finally, becoming a team, developing an idea and growing together while living in three different countries and working full-time was a tough test for us. The accelerator program certainly helped.

What is the benefit of your platform? Where do you see your USP?

The redistribution element – waste pickers having a stake in the downstream transactions. Everything with proof of payment and thus proof of impact. We are not another greenwashing label.

Please complete our sentence: The world needs a circular economy because…

…the current linear “take-make-dispose” model of the global economy is currently using 100 billion tons of materials annually, and only 8.6% of those materials are recycled. A circular economy could generate up to $4.5 trillion in economic benefits by 2030 and create up to 1.2 million new jobs in the European Union alone.
Our planet is a closed system. Not adopting a circular economy could lead us to resource bankruptcy.

Would you like to meet Takatari and experience the award ceremony live in Berlin? Register now for the event: https://green-alley-award.com/event-registration/

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