Transforming Haitian Waste, Case by Case

Specialized Recyclables…Who Knew?
November 7, 2018

Amid the landfills and impoverished streets of one of the world’s poorest nations, hope is emerging.

Resourceful entrepreneurs and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) alike are tapping into the rich recycling potential of Haiti. All while reducing waste and helping local communities.

A Case in Point

Take Jack Foley, for instance, an 18-year-old from Rockville, Maryland, and student at Ohio Wesleyan University. He recently started ReYuze Cases, a company that fashions iPhone cases from 100% recycled plastic from the streets, canals and landfills of Haiti.

Foley’s company collects the plastic water bottles and containers and ships them to its ecofriendly factory in the United States. Each phone case is made out of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and then shipped to the consumer using biodegradable packaging.

Foley’s initial vision was simply to help save the oceans. But it wasn’t long before he recognized another serious problem which also had to be addressed: Child labor in the dangerous Haitian landfills.

Addressing Another Serious Problem

Foley soon learned that some 400 families rely on waste collection in Haiti’s Truttier landfill as a primary source of income. And about  300 children live and collect in the landfill as their source of survival. (See related article, “Recycling Systems in the Developing World.”)

So now one dollar from every ReYuze purchase goes to The First Mile Coalition, a Los Angeles-based effort dedicated to ending child labor in Haiti and helping Haitian communities. So far, the organization has been instrumental in providing families with food assistance, access to medical care and education.

But Foley also wants to benefit his local community, which is why he manufacturers his phone cases at a Gaithersburg, Maryland, facility.

Making iPhone cases is only the beginning for Foley. He plans to begin producing cases for other phone brands, as well. And the company is currently working on procuring plastic from other developing countries.

Wherever they are, the mission is always the same: “Saving the world, case by case.”

The Tap Tap Garden

Numerous Haitian landfills were created by the massive earthquake which struck the island in 2010.  One of the largest dumping sites is a former reservoir outside of Cite Soleil, an area known as the most dense and dangerous slum in the Western Hemisphere.

It’s in this very community where several organizations have combined their efforts to create Haiti’s largest urban garden.  The Jaden Tap Tap (“Tap Tap Garden”) is a green oasis amidst an otherwise garbage-strewn eyesore. The garden began in 2012 as a way to recycle urban waste (such as discarded tires). Anything that can serve as a plant container is utilized.

A New Beginning in Cite Soleil, Haiti: The Jaden Tap Tap from Bochika Organization on Vimeo.

The garden grows 20 types of vegetables and herbs, as well as the moringa tree. Known as “the Tree of Life,” the moringa tree’s leaves are rich in protein and vitamins. They’re a godsend for malnourished Haitians, who often add them to juices, soups, cornmeal and rice.

This acre of former landfill now symbolizes hope, empowerment, education and opportunity for one of the poorest communities on the planet.

Nothing Wasted

One of the organizations that was instrumental in creating the Tap Tap Garden is SOIL a Haitian NGO that uses a process called EcoSan to transform human waste into rich compost.

Did you know that Port-au-Prince is the largest city in the world without a sewage system? That’s a deadly situation, and cholera is far too common. In fact, 10 Haitian children die every day from water-borne illnesses.

But SOIL’s EcoSan process is hoping to change all that. The program simultaneously tackles two of Haiti’s toughest challenges. Here’s how:

  1. Retrofitted porta-potties provide sanitation to people who would otherwise have no access to a toilet.
  2. Human waste is safely treated and transformed into an endless supply of  rich, fertile compost, critical for agriculture and reforestation.

Here’s how it works: Customers pay a small monthly fee for placement of a locally made EcoSan toilet in their home. Once a week, SOIL collects the full waste receptacles and replaces them with empty sanitized ones. They also replenish a supply of cover material (used for “flushing” a dry toilet).

In addition, the company provides portable toilets outdoor social events, construction sites, or other mobile toilet needs, through  EkoMobil, its mobile toilet service.

Since 2006, the members of SOIL have been committed to restoring Haiti’s beauty and vitality by transforming wastes into resources, while promoting dignity for the Haitian people.

Is It Working?

  • Since building its first waste-treatment facility in 2009, SOIL has become one of the largest sanitation operations in the country.
  • Every month, SOIL’s two composting facilities transform more than 50 metric tons of human waste into safe, organic, agricultural-grade compost.
  • The compost that’s produced at these facilities is then sold to farmers, organizations and businesses around Haiti to support agricultural and reforestation efforts, while subsidizing the cost of SOIL’s waste treatment operations.

Continued Efforts Needed

The recycling industry in Haiti has grown substantially over the years, and is beginning to make headway in cleaning up the island. But the problem with waste disposal is still enormous in this nation of almost 11 million people occupying a space five times smaller than Florida.

Clearly, the need for ongoing recycling initiatives is vital.


Sources:

Recycling Today

Recycling International

ReYuze Cases

The Guardian

Vice.com

SOIL

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