Meet the paper man

For Mathew Jose, recycling comes naturally. His efficient network of kabadiwallas in Chenna,i help him do his bit for the environment.

Published - April 28, 2016 04:45 pm IST

Mathew Jose: Setting an example. Photo: M. Srinath

Mathew Jose: Setting an example. Photo: M. Srinath

How many times have you been told to Reuse and Recycle?

For Mathew Jose, it comes naturally. He was featured in the Forbes 30 under 30, earlier this year. Why? Because, Paperman, an NGO that he runs, campaigns for efficient waste management.

It is a common sight to see raddiwalas, kabadiwalas or the scrap collector coming home to buy old newspapers and magazines. For most of us, it is the money that was important — it means a couple of ice creams on a hot day or our favourite toffees. Little did we know that the raddiwalas play an instrumental role in pushing society towards recycling.

Today, Paperman is on the scene. This NGO has created an organised system where its members train scrap collectors across the city and act as a connecting point between customers looking to recycle, and the recyclers. When customers call the Paperman hotline, a scrap collector goes to the house within 48 hours and makes the collection for money.

Changing face of scrap

After his graduation from Madras Christian College, Tambaram, Jose worked with his mentor MB Nirmal at ExNoRa (Excellent Novel Radical) International.

“It was here that I learnt about the environment and ways to protect it. I also had the opportunity to observe the routine of kabadiwallas and how they recycled four tonnes of waste every month.”

He then worked his way around the city, found and profiled scrap collectors to further understand what they did. The idea of recycling coupled with his interest led to the establishment of Paperman in 2010.

In an interview, Jose explains how, through Paperman, they have introduced trash funding systems which enable customers to donate their paper and plastic to an NGO of their choice, instead of selling it. “The NGOs use this to raise funds.”

“Our main goal is to strengthen the network of kabadiwallas making them more visible and connecting them,” he adds.

While the NGO is active only in Chennai at the moment, there are plans to take it to a national level. Plans are afoot to launch the NGO is Hyderabad and Bengaluru as well.

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