Prevented Ocean Plastic Southeast Asia is a pioneering plastic recycling company developing locally customised sorting and collection infrastructure for underserved communities across Indonesia. We find out more with co-Founder, Raffi Schieir.
ADDRESSING THE OCEAN PLASTIC PROBLEM
We all know there’s an ocean plastic problem.”
The Prevented Ocean Plastic programme was established by Raffi Schieir in 2019 to help stop ocean-bound plastic at its source (on land) and give it a second life in the form of new products in regions that are looking to expand their use of recycled content.
Ocean-bound plastic is most likely to occur in areas with a lack of formal waste management infrastructure, and where overpopulation or tourism are making the situation worse, which applies to parts of the Southeast Asia region.
“It became obvious we needed a local entity that could receive and utilise impact investment to make a difference, so Prevented Ocean Plastic Southeast Asia (POPSEA) was born,” says Schieir, who co-founded POPSEA in 2021 with Daniel Lawrence, one of the sharpest minds in global recycling who has been operating in the local Indonesian market for many years.
POPSEA was specifically launched to address the needs of Southeast Asia and provide a way for local businesses and recyclers to be involved.
Since then, POPSEA has benefitted from various investments to help develop new infrastructure in the region.
“These infrastructure builds form part of our wider mission, announced on World Oceans Day 2023, to build 25 new collection centres in areas that need them by 2025.”
PARTNERING WITH LOCAL RECYCLERS
Since the beginning, Prevented Ocean Plastic has strongly believed in partnering with local recyclers to best provide what is needed for them and their region.
In order to facilitate a just transition at each level of the supply chain, the company understands that it’s also important to listen to the waste pickers and first collectors who are on the frontline.
“These groups directly inform the development of the programme and what we can do to best help them in each region,” says Schieir.
For example, the recent opening of a collection centre in Semarang on the northern coast of Central Java, Indonesia, was identified through a Circularity Assessment Protocol (CAP) conducted by the University of Georgia in the US.
The area was lacking in formal waste management infrastructure, so a larger aggregation centre was developed to process the region’s increased waste demands.
“We did the same in North Jakarta soon after and have since broken ground on multiple other sites to meet specific needs,” Schieir outlines.
“In addition to our work at collection centre and recycler level, we are sponsoring efforts that extend beyond our builds, such as our pilot Bank Sampah initiative to support more localised clean-up efforts.”
QUALITY AND TRACEABILITY
In the past, the recycling industry as a whole lacked clear guidelines or direction.
However, the introduction of the Prevented Ocean Plastic Standards, which have been signed by some of the world’s best recyclers, goes beyond mandated and regulatory guidelines to offer something that benefits everyone at each level of the supply chain.
“We take into account social and environmental factors so that people have dignified work, while ensuring quality and traceability for our end-users – the brands and companies who choose to bring our recycled plastic into their supply chain,” states Schieir.
By giving value to otherwise discarded and worthless plastic, POPSEA has encouraged clean-ups in areas most prone to ocean-bound plastic – covering four of the most populated islands in Indonesia – thus protecting the surrounding ocean and supporting the local economy.
As local recyclers and collectors directly inform the programme and its development, POPSEA is launching new initiatives to engage more directly with first collectors in order to better understand their needs.
“The recent expansion of the POPSEA truck programme is an example of this, as we can now get closer to the first collectors, reducing their travel time and the amount they need to carry,” Schieir informs us.
The nature of a just transition is to provide the best result for stakeholders at each level of the supply chain, which is why POPSEA’s vertically integrated model works so well.
“We’ve had the opportunity to take manufacturers and their clients on site visits, as we did last year with Spectra Packaging and Lush, so they can see the transformation and quality first-hand.”
POPSEA has benefitted from investment through partners such as Circulate Capital and USAID’s Clean Cities Blue Ocean (CCBO) initiative to develop infrastructure in the region.
“The Semarang opening was funded by CCBO, and we have since broken ground on their second collection centre, which is being developed in Makassar, the largest city in East Indonesia,” reveals Schieir.
Having impact investment partners is a key part of the equation, as these developments cost money.
Investors today are starting to focus on the balance between people, the planet, and long-term profit, which is something these collection centres can provide.
The processes developed as part of Prevented Ocean Plastic and implemented by POPSEA ensure traceability, so brands and businesses know where their material came from and how collection is helping the region.
“Our rigorous manual sortation means that labels, caps, and other contaminants are removed at the beginning of the cycle and are further flushed out during the hot-wash process to ensure the clearest finish and highest quality,” Schieir details.
This is one of the reasons why Prevented Ocean Plastic has made the jump to food packaging in Lidl and pharmaceutical packaging in the NHS, as it stands up to the deepest scrutiny and surpasses kerbside collection alternatives.
Being able to offer a quality product that is also doing good is one of the programme’s key points of difference.