Remember Mathew Jose aka the 'Paperman'? He just got an invite from Barack Obama

You probably know that Mathew Jose is synonymous with his start-up Paperman. here's the next big thing that he's doing - he's been invited to meet Barack Obama at his Town Hall
Paperman holds something unique called Trash funding where you can donate using waste at home
Paperman holds something unique called Trash funding where you can donate using waste at home

Straight out of college, how many of us would choose to work for a non-profit company that is into waste management? In 2010, Mathew Jose, founder of Paperman, was working with ExNoRa when he was introduced to the world of recycling and waste management. ExNoRa also focusses on creating awareness on global warming and educating people on the importance of recycling. In a year’s time, he saw the real need in the space.

That’s when he decided to start Paperman in Chennai. “We are a country of 125 billion people and our GDP growth is at around 7.5%. In the next decade, we are expected to be the fourth biggest economy. So, you can imagine how our consumption will increase. I am not denying that it’s a good thing but we don’t realise how much waste we will end up generating.

A city like Chennai throws away 6000 tonnes of waste on average, every day,” explains the 28-year-old. Mathew says that most of that can be recycled and that’s exactly what Paperman works toward. “When I started, I saw a gap and a demand that needed attention. So, I quit my job and I started working with schools. I strongly believe that educating children about recycling and helping them be eco-friendly at a young age is more effective than trying to educate adults on the importance of the environment.

Small step: Paperman initially organised small paper retrieving drives at schools

I actually like working with kids,” smiles Mathew. He started organising small paper retrieving drives at schools and then he started Recycle Week, a competition between 200 odd schools to collect old newspapers and recycle it. The money raised went towards educating girl children. “This gets students to be more responsible and helps them understand that we can do simple things to do our bit for the environment as well as the society. We sent a hundred girls to school that year using the money from the drive. It definitely taught them that even small things count,” says Mathew.

That’s when he felt that children need to have a more stable environment that constantly reminds them to be more responsible with their waste. So, he introduced a miniature Paperman model called Recycle Wall to 14 and 15-year-olds, where they will take it up as a year-long project to reduce the waste in their school. It teaches them to build an entrepreneurial spirit as well as the importance of charity.

Almost fifteen schools in the city participated and the results rather surprised Mathew, causing him to take it forward with corporates and households. “In 2014, we began our collection operations, where I connected with 270 local kabadiwalas from different parts of the city. So, our role is to put anyone who wants to recycle their waste in touch with a kabadiwala in their area. 

From its roots: Mathew Jose strongly believes that educating children about recycling and helping them be eco-friendly at a young age is more effective

Paperman can even be called ‘The Uber for Recycling’. We have a call centre and a very active WhatsApp helpline to assist people. You can also visit our website or download the mobile app that’s in the beta stages, where you just need to fill in your address and choose a slot for them to pick up your waste at specified rates for each material,” says Mathew.

There’s something unique about Paperman called Trash Funding. What if we tell you that you can donate to charity using your waste at home? It sounds like an odd idea but all you have to do is switch your option of collecting cash from the kabadiwala to choosing any of the forty-plus NGOs listed with Paperman and the money will be redirected.

Some of the NGOs that you can support are Teach for India, Prathyasha, Aruwe and many more. But sadly, not many of us know about this innovative charity drive. He says that it will take some effort to store plastic or glass bottles for recycling, but we have to realise that it might just be a drop in the sea to do our bit for the environment. “I hope you know the state of the landfills in the city.

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