Jayed Ahmed runs a vangari shop in Mohammadpur. The shop belonged to his father just a few years ago, before Jayed took over. For many of us, most items have a limited shelf life. But for Jayed, repurposing, recycling and selling waste is his livelihood.
Sourcing materials for his shop has always been a challenge. It is a time-consuming process and the ferrywalas he sends out to search for waste usually need to scour the surrounding areas. Even then it was not a consistent, secure source of materials for his shop.
However, ever since partnering up with Recycle Jar Ecosystem two months ago, Jayed received immense assistance in this regard.
Recycle Jar Ecosystem is a social enterprise that provides a market platform where anyone can sell their household waste. These can range from used plastic, electronics, cooking oil, paper, cardboard etc.
Recycle Jar connects sellers with local recyclers such as bhangariwallahs like Jayed, who buys these waste materials at a slightly lower price and after repurposing, he resells them at his regular rate, thus generating a profit.
Essentially the Recycle Jar Ecosystem works as a middleman, connecting interested sellers with recyclers.
Nowadays Jayed gets a steady supply of nine to ten orders, all he does is send his ferriwalas to the households who sell on Recycle Jar's platform. There they buy and pick up the materials for the shop. Thus, Jayed saves time, energy and money that he would have spent on sourcing recyclable materials.
On top of these advantages, Recycle Jar's guidance has changed Jayed's entire outlook on waste and how he approaches it.
"We used to take apart electronics and resell specific parts. For example, good copper wiring in fridges would usually fetch us Tk650. Smaller ones would be priced at Tk350. So, we used to buy damaged fridges for Tk1,000 and take them apart and resell these parts.
It was the Recycle Jar who showed us how to tell if an electronic could still be repaired and reused. So nowadays if we source a repairable appliance, we resell it to shops who can then repair and sell it as a second-hand product," explained Jayed.
What is Recycle Jar Ecosystem?
Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries. Despite this, we are ill-prepared when it comes to fighting the increasing effects of climate change.
Ziaur Rahman, CEO and founder of Recycle Jar Ecosystem, always felt strongly about climate change and this inspired him to start the initiative.
In 2019, he left behind his lucrative job and poured all his savings into building the Recycle Jar Ecosystem. Over time he brought on his main team of co-founders. Rahman's idea was to fight pollution and reduce our carbon footprint in an economic way. He wanted to change people's ideas about waste and see its potential value.
"Bangladesh has 10 million displaced climate refugees but even then, we have not fully grasped how affected we are. That is because we don't see any room for profiting from this issue. And the truth is we only take action when we see a potential to profit from something. So, I wanted to work around this mindset and thus I started this initiative," said Rahman.
Rahman studied in the United Kingdom. He has worked for several financial companies, even working on a "Lighting Asia" project with the World Bank. But he felt strongly about making a difference in the fight against climate change, and he readily left it all behind to devote his time to finding solutions that would best work for Bangladesh.
"Imagine a Bangladesh without waste. That is the dream we are working towards. We believe even waste has value. That is why we made an integrated platform where anyone can sell their used, damaged goods. And depending on the criteria of the waste, we connect these sellers to recyclers like vangariwallah, street vendors, traders, ferrywalas etc. They then recycle, repurpose and reuse this waste.
People can earn money by selling the waste they produce. This way they can fund themselves and do their part in saving the environment," said Ziaur Rahman.
Prospective sellers can access Recycle Jar's website and instantly make their sales. They can also calculate their carbon output using the site's own carbon footprint calculator. To date, the Recycle Jar Ecosystem has increased the income of around 6,000 households while reducing CO2 emissions by 66 tons. They have also redistributed more than 61,000 items.
Currently, Recycle Jar has a total of 478 partners like Jayed, ranging from ferrywalas (178 persons), vangariwalas (211), recycling companies (4), scrap traders (13), e-waste collectors (16), merchant waste traders (11) and used cooking oil buyers (1).
Along with their marketplace, Recycle Jar also offers a repair, rental and exchange service.
They offer a repairing service where households can repair their broken items through Recycle Jar's local repair service. They have a self-storage or rental service where households can rent out their empty space to others who may need it.
They also offer inventory exchange or swapping between companies. Using this service, companies can exchange machinery between each other instead of scrapping it, thus reducing the carbon footprint. Finally, they offer corporate recycling solutions which allow recyclers to connect with corporations for recycling purposes.
Additionally, Recycle Jar also offers a new carbon removal service. This initiative is the first of its kind in Bangladesh. It allows corporations to store their carbon waste instead of dumping it as they usually do.
They are also currently working on a joint Sundarban – Reforestation Project with India. Recycle Jar is working to implement a reforestation project of degraded ecosystems along the Sunderban corridor.
India has been allotted 15,000 hectares while Bangladesh is working on 5,000 hectares. The project is being managed by Enking International with a tenure of 15 years.
The reforestation process will be done by carbon offsetting and it will also be the first time a private company in Bangladesh works with carbon storage. "Carbon offsetting is a dynamic approach. No one has worked with that concept here. We plan to introduce this more locally in the future," said Rahman.
In the future, Recycle Jar also plans to introduce sustainable packaging and plastic pollution solutions. They are also aiming to launch their app this year. While their current reach is only within Dhaka, Rahman aims to launch Recycle Jar across Bangladesh in the future.
"We are currently self-funded. But we are focussing our efforts on getting international climate change funds or grants. We are also looking to attract equity investors interested in climate. With more investments we can broaden our impact," said Rahman.
He added, "Our focus is more on creating an impact not doing business. As long as we make enough to get by, we are satisfied. Our main goal is fighting climate change and minimising our carbon footprint. That is our vision.
We are not a business; we are a social enterprise. We are not an NGO and neither are we driven by profit."
For their contributions towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Recycle Jar Ecosystem was recognised as one of the Top Ten Startups of Youth Co:Lab's Springboard Programme 4.0 in Bangladesh.