Delhi and Dar es Salaam are among the many cities plagued by plastic pollution to which tourism contributes. However, these two cities also house project sites for Reflow, a startup that transforms discarded plastic waste into 3D printing filament. Not only creating a circular, sustainable and versatile material, Reflow contributes revenue back into the capacity building and wellbeing of the local communities that collect the waste.
We spoke to Jasper, co-founder and CEO of Reflow to hear more about the motivations for creating such a social enterprise and the vision behind it.
WHAT TRIGGERED YOU TO START YOUR BUSINESS?
One day I was walking the shores of Dar es Salaam, and all I could see was plastic. I visited waste sites in Kenya and saw the lives of the people trying to sort through this waste to make a living; I would go through my social media stream and would see the awful statistics of the amount of plastic we throw away each day.
To me, plastic pollution is a problem that is impossible to turn away from. I believe a large part of the problem is that in the last 50 years we have created a world of disposable products made with 'dirty' plastics in 'far-off' factories. When I started 3D printing, I immediately saw the potential this technology had of turning this system completely upside down. Local, low-cost and flexible production, done in real communities.
What inspired me to take action is that, as 3D printing is taking off, we have an one-time opportunity to make sure this revolution is a sustainable one. What got me started was becoming a parent and realising the type of world I'd like to leave my children - a world where we once again produce ourselves and do this with fully circular, sustainable materials.
WHAT DOES YOUR STARTUP DO?
Reflow creates sustainable 3D printing materials with a social purpose and no compromise on quality or price.
WHAT'S THE IMPACT OF YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE ON THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY?
For every kg of filament, we reduce carbon emission by 0.5kg, and prevent 820 grams of plastic waste. On the social aspect of our company, we use 5% of our profits to better the lives of waste collectors, primarily in India. Tourism is both a heavy plastic polluter as well as the industry that suffers the most from its waste.
WHAT RECENT MILESTONE(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
Using 60,000 plastic bottles to 3D print (together with our partner ai-build) the entire interior decoration of the bottletop store on Regent street in London.
Taking one of the biggest problems faced by the environment and turning it around to be a positive is exactly the type of initiative we're looking to support. Find more information on Reflow on their website or continue staying up to date with our blog to hear how they got on in the programme!