UMCOR’s Facilitating Alleviation of Trash through Recycling Associations (FATRA) program, helps reduce the amount of trash in Bobin, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, while generating income for individuals that wish to recycle.
By Reginald Toussaint*
April 17, 2014—Trash is cash. This is not just a slogan but a reality for residents of Bobin, a community of Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. The neighborhood faces severe social, economic and environmental challenges. In 2011, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) began working in Bobin to help residents address challenges left by the devastating 2010 earthquake.
One area in which community members expressed an interest in UMCOR’s support was in tackling the problem of environmental waste. While exact numbers are not known, it is estimated that 900 tons of plastics enter Haiti every month. Streets, alleys, canals, and empty lots are filled with garbage. Bobin is not immune, and when the canals and ravines of this community become clogged with discarded plastic, residents are more exposed to flooding and disease.
To address the waste issue, UMCOR created a program called FATRA: Facilitating Alleviation of Trash through Recycling Associations. FATRA provides a means for residents to recycle and reduce the amount of trash in their community while at the same time generating household income. FATRA is a multi-faceted program and includes environmental education, the establishment of a cooperative tasked with running a plastics collection business, and the creation of a plastics collection center, including equipment and business training for cooperative members. On Friday, April 11, the Bobin plastics collection center was inaugurated, and the community is excited.
|Elize Boaz made $14 from plastic she collected from the community.
‘’I am glad we have this center here,’’ said Elize Boaz, a 57-year-old woman who brought plastics to the center on inauguration day. “Today, I made 580 gourdes [the equivalent of $14 USD] from plastic I collected in the community. This is an opportunity not only to make money but also to clean the environment,” she said.
Community members will collect discarded plastic from the streets and sell it to the COTECDP (Coopérative tête Ensemble pour la Collecte des Déchets Plastiques), the community group that is managing the center. The COTECDP will sell the plastic to Haiti Recycling. Then Haiti Recycling will grind the plastic into chips and sell it to customers around the world to make purses, shoes, and other items for sale. Profit made by the cooperative will be used to pay the center’s employees and to share among the cooperative members.
|COTECDP President Louis Telfort, says, “UMCOR has helped to create a business opportunity for not only the cooperative members but for the entire community as well."
"UMCOR has helped create a business opportunity not only for the cooperative members but for the entire community,’’ said Louis Telfort, president of the cooperative. With the opening of the Bobin center, people already collecting discarded plastic no longer need to travel long distances to sell it. The time saved can be used to collect more plastic, which can translate into more income—and cleaner streets and streams.
“From this project, we have learned that the collection of discarded plastic is a good thing for the environment and also a solution to another problem,” continued Telfort. “Everyone should seize this opportunity to improve their income by collecting and selling discarded plastic,” he said.
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*Reginald Toussaint is WASH manager for UMCOR Haiti. He has served with UMCOR since June 2013.