Mathew Jose

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2015


This profile was prepared when Mathew Jose was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
Under the current recycling system in India, waste collectors, known as kabadiwallahs, travel door-to-door, offering households a small amount of money for their recyclable material. Unfortunately, the cash, environmental or moral arguments have been insufficient to motivate customers to recycle their waste. This limits the amount of waste material recovered and adds cost to the recycling industry, which already works on slim margins.

Mathew recognizes that while the monetary value of waste is insignificant at a small scale, it can increase in significance and function as an alternate currency when linked to other values. With this insight, he is aggregating and broadening this set of incentives to create a culture of recycling at the consumer level. For instance, Mathew capitalizes on the aspiration of urban middle-class households to give back to their community by creating an ‘emotional value’ for waste. His platform allows households to connect the value of their recyclable waste to impact they can create. The low sum of INR 200 (US $4) that a household may receive for selling their recyclables in a month is presented as a day’s nutrition for a child, or a week’s medication for an HIV+ individual. This provides much greater motivation for individuals to gather and sell their waste. Similarly, Mathew uses gamification to encourage schools and children to start ‘companies’ that aggregate the waste collected from their homes and donate the proceeds to a cause of their choice. As children launch campaigns, compete and celebrate their efforts in recycling, they build a culture of recycling and giving in their formative years.

Mathew connects this aggregated waste to the existing network of kabadiwallahs and streams them to the recycling industry, thereby creating an efficient value chain for recycling that increases income of kabadiwallahs and helps recycling industry reach its potential.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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