Our daily newspapers are sold to the kabadiwalas as a matter of routine. But have you given any thought to the piles of rough note papers, chocolate wrappers, cinema ticket stubs, tissue papers, bus tickets, plastic bottles or the waste office paper? There is one man who gave this some serious thought and found an answer by starting a social venture called Paperman. Mathew Jose launched his initiative with an objective to raise the spirit of recycling and to make a measurable environmental impact.
Mathew’s first job with the environmental and civic movement, ExNoRa was a turning point in life — giving him a deep insight into environmental issues, which later saw him launching his own initiative. He says, “I come from a business family and after graduation, I had two options — to do an MBA and get back to the family business or join a company. I decided to take the latter route but wanted to engage myself in something offbeat. Even as a youngster, I was inclined to entrepreneurship — a goal that got some direction when started my first job.” Talking about his venture, he says, “Usually, entrepreneurship is seen as something through which one can earn money, but to me, it was all about solving environmental issues in a sustainable manner. I found that waste management is a big point of debate and discussion on a daily basis but only small progress has been done. There is no end to this problem and not many wanted to address this because, for one there was no huge financial gain to be had. That’s when I started Paperman.” In India, 8.5 million tons of paper is produced every year, of which only 20 per cent is recycled. So essentially, 6.8 million tons of paper go to waste every year. He works with around 300 waste paper and scrap collectors, households and schools and his six-year journey is creating solutions for waste management.
Mathew started off with educating school children, and he says, “They were the first people to really listen to me and I learnt a lot from third graders who would ask me questions like ‘can the human body or chocolate wrappers be recycled?’ That a kid in standard three can think like that amazed me.’ We are constantly thinking of such questions and collect close to 90 items like bottles, pamphlets, books, magazines, thermocol, plastic bags, tetra packs, and chocolate wrappers to recycle.”
Travelling is something Mathew loves and he quips, “I recently got married so I am doing a lot of cooking. My wife and I recently travelled to a lovely island in Thailand. I cherish all the trips that I go with my college gang every two years. We recently went to Sri Lanka which was great fun.”
Mathew’s inspiration is ExNoRa’s founder Nirmal and he shares, “I could have followed a natural path but the fire he lit in me still burns bright today. We mostly look at negatives and tend to crib about better lifestyles abroad. To stay positive is the best gift he gave me.”