Transforming Recycling: A Mission of Empowerment and Environmental Stewardship

Michael Maggio Shares His Inspiring Journey From Corporate Ambition to Global Impact, Spotlighting The Crucial Role of the Informal Recycling Sector

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Devin: What is your superpower?

Michael: I would say it's the ability to recognize hope.

In today's episode of "Superpowers for Good," I had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael Maggio, President and Founder of iWrc, an individual whose story and mission captivate the essence of positive change. Michael's journey from a corporate executive at Johnson & Johnson to spearheading a global recycling initiative is nothing short of remarkable. His vision extends beyond environmental stewardship, delving deep into social justice and poverty alleviation.

Michael vividly recounted his eye-opening experience in Brazil, which laid the foundation for his transformative work. "I remember one woman distinctly eating from the conveyor belt as she was sorting through the trash, trying to get the recyclables out. I thought, Johnson & Johnson can't use this material. But now that I've seen it, I don't feel like I can walk away." This poignant moment underscores the stark realities faced by those at the frontline of the informal recycling sector, a community often overlooked yet integral to our global ecosystem.

Under Michael's guidance, iWrc champions a unique approach, emphasizing the importance of integrating and uplifting these informal recyclers. By offering training and creating viable supply chains, iWrc not only enhances the livelihoods of these individuals but also propels the corporate world towards more sustainable and responsible practices.

The essence of Michael's work transcends the conventional boundaries of recycling; it's about recognizing the inherent value in every individual and their contribution to our planet. His initiative is a testament to the power of compassionate leadership and the potential for corporate responsibility to foster genuine, widespread impact.

As I reflect on our conversation, I'm reminded of the profound interconnectedness of our actions and their ripple effects on both humanity and the environment. Michael's story is a beacon of hope and a call to action, urging us all to rethink our approach to sustainability and social equity. Through collective effort and empathy, we can transform the very fabric of our global community, paving the way for a more inclusive and sustainable future.

AI Episode Summary

1. Michael Maggio is the CEO and founder of iWrc (Informal Waste Recycling Consortium), a company focusing on recycling and poverty alleviation.

2. Michael’s journey with iWrc began during his tenure at Johnson & Johnson, where, tasked with sustainability goals, he aimed to use recycled material in packaging.

3. On a trip to Brazil, after proposing the use of recycled material, Michael was taken to a local recycling co-op, where he was confronted with poor working conditions for those sorting recyclables.

4. The conditions prompted the creation of Project Phoenix to train and certify recycling cooperatives to become part of Johnson & Johnson’s supply chain.

5. When Michael decided to leave J&J and pursue this full-time, J&J supported him and became iWrc's first client on the condition he involved other companies.

6. iWrc operates by forming a consortium of corporations aiming to use recycled materials responsibly, addressing the entire supply chain for both social and environmental impact.

7. iWrc's model ensures that current workers in recycling co-ops are trained and integrated into improved processing streams rather than replaced.

8. Michael highlights the critical role that seeing hope plays in his leadership and approach to business, using hope to transform perspectives and inspire changemaking efforts.

9. Through storytelling, Michael and his team sustain morale by highlighting "People First" moments that celebrate successes and learn from challenges.

10. Interested individuals or companies can get involved with iWrc or learn more about their work by visiting their website, checking out iWrc University for training videos, or connecting with Michael via LinkedIn.


How to Develop Recognizing Hope As a Superpower

Michael Maggio's superpower is the "Ability to Recognize Hope." This quality has allowed him to see potential and possibilities where others might see insurmountable challenges or dismiss opportunities for change. His superpower is grounded in a profound belief in the potential for positive change, even in the most difficult circumstances.

A compelling story that exemplifies Michael's superpower is his encounter with Becky, the president of a cooperative in Brazil. Despite working under dire conditions, Becky and her team displayed an unyielding spirit and a sense of purpose that deeply inspired Michael. Their dedication to recycling, despite having very little and working in tough conditions, highlighted the hope and potential Michael sees in people and situations. This interaction was pivotal, encouraging him to leave his comfortable role at J&J to actively engage in making a significant impact.

For those looking to develop a similar superpower, Michael's journey offers valuable insights. 

  • First, engage directly with the people involved in the work you're interested in, as this can provide unique perspectives and inspiration. 

  • Second, focus on the positive impact of the work, both environmentally and socially, to maintain motivation and drive. 

  • Third, remember the broader mission and the individuals you're helping when facing challenges or complications in your work. 

  • Lastly, storytelling can be a powerful tool to remind yourself and others of the value and impact of your work, especially during tough times.

By following Michael Maggio's example and advice, you can make the "Ability to Recognize Hope" a skill. With practice and effort, you could make it a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.

Remember, however, that research into success suggests that building on your own superpowers is more important than creating new ones or overcoming weaknesses. You do you!

Guest Profile

Michael Maggio (he/him):

President and Founder, iWrc

About iWrc: iWrc (Inclusive Waste Recycling Consortium) was founded in 2019 at the request of our founding members, consisting of HP, J&J, KCC and FEMSA Foundation, all with the same goal of including post-consumer waste (PCR) recovered from the environment by recycling cooperatives and autonomous collectors. On his first visit to Brazil, Michael Maggio, our CEO and founder, worked as global vice president of packaging and global head of engineering at Johnson & Johnson and was then introduced to the risks that exist when integrating them into the formal supply chain. When visiting cooperatives, he saw shirtless men and women without shoes, children on site, electrical wires hanging from the ceiling, no drinking water and no working toilets. Since then, he was determined to improve conditions for the people he realized were the first line of defense in protecting the environment by providing recycling services where none existed.

To achieve this, iWrc's vision was created together to build an environment where people, the community and businesses benefit from the transformation of waste into valuable resources. We set out to do this by eliminating individual risk factors for those who recycle in emerging markets and live at or below the poverty line – risk factors such as child labor, forced labor, unsafe and inhumane working conditions, which improve the health of waste pickers. recyclable materials and well-being while integrating the material they collect into the value chains of our public/private business partners. To date, through the iWrc approach, we have helped reinsert thousands of tons of recycled material into the supply chain, saved thousands of dollars in logistics costs, generated millions in revenue for our partner cooperatives and trained thousands of workers in the recycling market.

Website: iwrc.world

Biographical Information: Michael Maggio is the president at iWrc (Inclusive Waste Recycling Consortium), a digitally enabled collaborative platform that builds a self-sustaining circular ecosystem between consumers, waste pickers, recycling cooperatives and brand partners. iWrc currently works with waste pickers in Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and India to help them achieve a global social accountability certification whilst providing reverse logistics and helping their brand partners meet their commitments to the National Solid Waste Policy.

Michael is the founder and driving force behind this initiative and has helped transform the supply chains impact in emerging markets through a unique sustainability effort that encourages economic supply and demand, recycling and self-sufficient, responsible growth. He has also written extensively on a concept called Positive Potential™, a strategy to balance waste generation against measurable positive sustainability initiatives.

His corporate journey was predominantly based in the fast-moving consumer goods industry, serving most recently as the Vice President of Global Engineering and Packaging at Johnson & Johnson. Prior to that, he served in senior leadership roles within the engineering organizations at The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., Avon Products, Inc., and L’Oréal Paris. He received his Bachelor of Science, Packaging from the Rochester Institute of Technology, a Master of Science, Environmental Science and Chemistry from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and a Master of Business Administration from the Cornell University S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/maggiomichael

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Superpowers for Good
Superpowers for Good: Empowering Changemakers for Social Impact via Regulated Investment Crowdfunding from the SuperCrowd.
We host changemakers who are using regulated investment crowdfunding for social impact--impact crowdfunding--as impact investors or social entrepreneurs, catalyzing change with leadership skills we call superpowers.