Have you ever wondered what happens to the daily newspaper once you sell it to the ‘kabadi wala’? Have you ever considered what happens to the piles of rough notes that you make during exams, or the thousand of wasted office paper? Even if you haven’t, there is someone out there who did. And he did something about it. A highly entrepreneurial and environment conscious Mathew Jose started Paperman, a social venture aimed at creating a paper recycling revolution.
Mathew hails from Kochi, Kerala. After completing his graduation in commerce from MCC Tambaram in 2009, Mathew started working with his mentor and guide MB Nirmal, Founder, ExNoRa (Excellent Novel Radical) International. It was here that he grew to learn a lot about the environment and what a common man could do to protect the environment. “I worked at ExNoRa International, in Mr Nirmal’s guidance, for a year. I was involved in the lights out campaign of the organisation last year. The idea of the campaign was to create awareness about the causes, consequences and solutions of global warming. It involved switching off lights for just 10 minutes in solidarity at 10PM on October 10, 2010.” Jose was the general secretary of Youth ExNoRa, a platform for youth to engage in social service for 6 months. It was then that he learnt about recycling and how recycling helps the environment. Being the entrepreneur that he is, he wanted to start a venture focused on paper recycling. That’s how Paperman was born.
Did he start it as a one man enterprise? “At each stage of the process there were different people who supported the idea, in the beginning very close friends came to help, then on hearing about the project we did have a lot of people coming forward spending quality time on our project. Some of my special supporters are Keshav T Kishore, John Pereira, Sarah May John, Jikku alex and Stanley John. But a large part of the credit goes to all those who help collect paper from schools to the women groups who help process it.”
Paperman was started in July 2010 by Mathew with his like-minded friends with the simple objective of raising awareness on recycling and its benefits. It was officially registered by November 2010.
What have been its biggest achievements so far? “We have taken our program to 100 schools and 2, 00, 000 students in Chennai, educating them about recycling and also laying emphasis on the role a paperman (scrap dealer) plays in recycling in India. We have launched sustainable recycling programs with 20 schools whereby we recycle their paper waste through local units. We also deliver it back as products to the schools.” As of now, this innovative model is operational only in Chennai but its highly scalable and replicable nature makes it a potential model for the entire nation.
Apart from recycling activities, the team at Paperman also organizes paper drives in schools to raise paper and educate children about recycling. What is the vision that drives this young team? “Our vision is to see these kids who participate in our activities to grow up and be individuals who are more conscious about the environment and develop a habit of being a ‘paperman’ in their daily lives by learning to segregate and recycle. Through them, we seek to see a 60% rise in recycling activity by 2020.”
Mathew Jose has taken the first steps and it has already generated a ripple effect in Chennai. It won’t be long before his vision and mission will spread in institutes across India. It is these grassroots movements that, we hope, will make India a role model for the world, in dealing with environmental issues.