be Waste Wise Pioneers: A Q&A with Ranjith Annepu

Plastic Pollution Coalition was honored to be named on the 2017 be Waste Wise Pioneers List, an annual compilation by be Waste Wise that recognizes 30 organizations that are effectively sharing solutions to waste management and stories about their work.

PPC spoke with be Waste Wise co-founder Ranjith Annepu about the origins and methodology of the list and critical need for waste-wise communities. 

Tell us about why you co-founded be Waste Wise.

In 2013, I was at a sustainable development conference at the World Bank. They organized one of the best sessions on waste management I have ever been a part of. That day, in a single room, I was surrounded by so many world-class experts that I felt I was in a “black hole” of waste management expertise. Super excited about everything I heard and learned that day, I wished others like me who are searching for solutions to and through waste can also get lucky by being able to access such expertise. I talked about this with my friend Katrina Mitchell and that’s how be Waste Wise started. She and I co-founded it.

How do you decide on the be Waste Wise Pioneers list?

We started with our Twitter Waste Influencers list, which had 95 members on February 17, 2014. That list eventually grew to include 900 members in 2017. 

We look at four key metrics for all members from data which is publicly available. Our goal is to choose influencers who had high content quality, content quantity, and social media popularity. We then created separate lists for individual influencers and influential organizations. 

Specifically, we looked at four key metrics:

  • Follower-to-following ratio on Twitter – this is a measure of popularity, which reflects how connected, relevant or representative they are.
  • Average number of tweets per day – this is one way to measure how active an account is.
  • Social Authority score – this is a metric from Followerwonk that is highly correlated with the number of retweets an account gets. It measures quality of content shared.
  • Klout score – this metric from Klout is highly correlated with follower counts on all social networks. It is another measure of popularity, but across all social channels.
  • Separate lists of individuals, universities, and media organizations will be published soon too.

Why is it important for organizations to share solutions to the waste problem?

We talk about waste being a global challenge with local solutions, but our efforts in disseminating solutions do not reflect that. They are inadequate. Poor and inadequate information is widely available through short blog posts, no pay-wall websites, memes, and infographics on social media. Such information is easily consumed by the public and communicated passionately. However, knowledge about waste solutions is only available in lengthy PDFs, expensive and time-consuming conferences and behind pay walls. The number of waste professionals who communicate regularly about solutions can be counted on fingers. When a project fails due to inadequate information, we incur health and environmental damage, as well as economic and political costs. More importantly, we incur the opportunity cost to create change.

I organized and helped organize many conferences in the U.S. and India, and wrote a report, which was nearly 200 pages long. Those documents and events are very important for a diligent researcher or a waste consultant. However, not all decisions are made by us. They are made by a larger community of people – policy makers, government officials, businesses, and the public – who do not always have enough time or resources to study long reports or attend quality conferences. A few never learn about waste until it becomes a priority in their community. We have to complement the knowledge in reports and conferences with shorter, easily accessible, and more engaging formats of knowledge dissemination.

Sharing solutions is important but that’s not enough. We also have to create engaged communities. 

We have to share solutions consistently in order to create waste-wise communities and individuals who will recognize the importance of waste management and will be aware of their options. Change towards sustainable local solutions cannot happen without the involvement of this wider community.

When my colleagues and I began bringing together leading-edge professionals to engage with the wider community, we realized that there was no community. We do not have a global waste community because we are fragmented, regionally and sectorally. We have only one functioning global organization, one global magazine, and zero global companies. We are divided into composters/bio guys, landfillers, waste to energy guys, anti waste-to-energy guys, recyclers/zero-wasters, social mitigators, etc. This means that there isn’t much incentive to address waste management at a global scale. For us, this meant we had to simultaneously build a global community which engaged people around all types of waste solutions.

Engaged communities enhance the process of learning by providing opportunities for discussion and debate, as opposed to a person learning in isolation. Also, communities outlast individuals. Similarly, knowledge gained by communities outlast individual expertise and can lead to long-term change. Such learning and long-term change will provide us with the most efficient way to address the global waste challenge.

What are some things each of us can do to reduce our waste today?

All of us can REFUSE single-use plastics! Or even better, refuse single-use plastic after a week-long self-exploration with #trashonyourback 

Take the pledge to refuse single-use plastic

Read the facts about plastic pollution.

Join our global Coalition. 

“If one of humankind’s desires has been to put its stamp on the world, waste is the most compelling and universal way in which it has accomplished its mission.”

— Brian Thill, Waste

Waste is a global challenge that demands local solutions. Every Wednesday throughout June, Plastic Pollution Coalition and be Waste Wise are bringing together thought leaders on solutions to plastic pollution, one of humankind’s greatest contributions to the global waste stream, during the 4th Global Dialogue on Waste. The annual event explores the need of waste management in improving universal wellbeing.

The four-panel webinar discussions are curated by PPC co-founder and CEO Dianna Cohen and be Waste Wise co-founder Ranjith Annepo, and moderated by Cohen:

Outer Space & Deep Oceans
June 8, 4 pm GMT/UTC
Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Director of Research, 5 Gyres Institute
Roz Savage, Ocean rower and environmental campaigner
Sourabh Kausha, Space explorer and INK Fellow

Man-made pollution has reached some of the farthest places on and off earth –deep oceans and outer space– which was unimaginable half-century ago.

View broadcast HERE.

Health Impacts of Plastic Pollution
June 15, 5 pm GMT/UTC
Abigail Barrows, Marine scientist, Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation
Dr. Arlene Bloom, Biophysical chemist, author and mountaineer
Stacy Malkan, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics co-founder

Improper waste management has numerous health impacts on humans and ecosystems. One such significant cause of health risk is plastic pollution. 

View the broadcast HERE.

Communications & Behaviour Change to Mitigate Plastic Pollution
June 24, 9 am GMT/UTC
Faye Christoforo, Post-Landfill Action Network
Jane Patton, Managing DirectorPPC

The issue of plastic pollution and improper waste management is out of sight and therefore out of mind for most people. 

View the broadcast HERE.

Plastic Pollution: Solutions, Alternatives & Innovation 
June 29, 2 pm GMT/UTC
Florian Hoffman, Founder of the DO School
Andrew Almack, Founder, Plastics for Change
Doug Woodring, Co-founder, Ocean Recovery Alliance
Asher Jay, Creative Conservationist and NatGeo Emerging Explorer

Plastic pollution and climate change are two of the biggest challenges facing current and future generations to which improper waste management contributes. 

Join the live broadcast HERE.

For more information, visit Global Dialogue on Waste.

Top photo: Phnom Penh landfill by Takemany Showfew via / CC BY-NC-ND