Wonderful Wasteless World

“The ideal of Wasteless World is to become redundant”, says Thomas Wright, “but until we reach that, recycling and upcycling can work wonders”. 

Tom started Wasteless World two years ago. Using his private savings and devoting all his time, he set up a warehouse with a workshop here in Bocas del Toro, Panama. He involves the local community, companies and government, and organizes beach clean-ups. His core team now consists of six devoted ‘warriors’. 

During our beach clean-up, one of the locals is interested. Thomas discusses the possibilities of going to schools and other ways to create awareness. In the background you see a collection station. On Carenero, every 100 meter you find a collection station like this.

We learned about Wasteless World, since they organized a beach clean up at Carenero. This is the smallest island of the Bocas archipelago. The island is small enough to clean it up by us, 12 people, but big enough to make a positive statement. Our group largely had a western outlook in common, but we were enthusiastically joined by some local children.

Awareness is key

Thomas tells: “The reality here, is that we need to create awareness. It is only 15 years ago that they used a part of the beach as the dumping ground for the garbage. Now, the local government is charging the population $ 1,50 per garbage bag and brings it to a landfill.”

With cooperation of the municipality, Wasteless World has put collection stations where you can put plastic, glass and tin cans in. Obviously, this would save on what you throw away in the garbage bag. However, Tom estimates: ”People throw their waste in remote pits, burn it, or throw their waste directly into the environment. Perhaps 5% of the town’s recyclable materials end up here. So, it is still a long way to go.”

With the help of students from  the Dutch University of Applied Science ‘Windesheim’, they set up an educational program for the local schools. Then, the next generation will do better on sustainability.

The Bocas International School was the first school where Wasteless World initiated an art programme. Good for the children’s awareness, and for the exposure to the local people.

Added value: the Wasteless World warehouse

Near the airport, we find the heart of the Wasteless warriors: the warehouse. Here they create products out of waste. You see that most products are smart products, as well as statements showing the value of garbage. Here are some examples.

The caps of plastic bottles can be shredded easily. When melted, they get pressed in moulds.  They make products like plastic tiles, combs, surfboard wax scrapers.
You might recognize the ‘Precious Plastics’ stamp; here you buy the machines and moulds needed for this kind of operations. But also, you can download the blueprints for building the machines yourself there, for free!
The Lionfish is an invasive exotic fish that needs to be caught in great numbers; they eat everything and they breed like rabbits. So, they endanger the rest of the fish and the coral in the region. In the workshop their fins find themselves in artistically crafted, attractive jewelry. And, the resin is homemade -, from plastic.
Bottles are great to turn into stylish glasses, if you pick the right ones. The edge is well polished, even softer than a regular glass. By the way, did you know that blue glass is about 20 times more expensive than the other colors?

Going for the mass flows; the Recycle Center

Anyone can bring their recyclable garbage straight to the Center, for free. Talking about money: only 20% comes from donations, mainly from the people from the USA and Europe living here. Seeing their environment deteriorated by the garbage, they were very enthusiastic about the Wasteless World. So, they were happy to donate, to make a next start up possible: the Recycle Centre.

The purpose of the Recycle Centre is to process the mass streams to products, especially plastic and glass. 

When we came, the Centro Reciclaje was still in its starting phase, but the machines already worked.

The value chain

People can bring in their garbage for free here. And much comes from the collection stations. As soon as the recycling station has processed one of the types of waste, they gain in worth.

The glass shredder makes a lot of noise, but does not use a lot of energy. Each color is shredded separately. Wasteless World prefers to sell the shredded glass locally, to people who want to use it for decorating their house or garden. Wasteless World sells the rest  to Veolia
The compressing machine is pure hydraulic force. It turns the plastic bottles some 5 to 10  times smaller, sizeable for storage and transport. The ferry and the transport companies bringing goods to Bocas, are willing to help Wasteless to transport the waste to the mainland  for free.
This large machine can shred plastics on a mass scale.
If you take 1 kilo of the right sort of plastic, and you press, shred and melt it in a mould, you have about a meter of really sustainable lumber. Wood needs to be impregnated regularly with biocides, to avoid rotting. Plastic lumber does not; it is near-maintenance free, and far more durable than wood. This saves forests. 
The right mix of shredded glass and plastic with some cement and water, makes bricks of high quality. 

At its start, the Recycling Centre can already employ two local employees, working four days a week. They learn all about the different sorts of glas, and will distinguish polyethene from styrene, PVC, PET LDPE and HDPE, EPS and many more plastics, so they are  able to separate the glass, cans, and all plastics, and  operate the machines. They create the added value. 

“But still, although the outlook is promising,” Thomas emphasizes, “the help of volunteers is necessary, and donations are very welcome.”

‘love bottle’: this bottle is lovingly filled with lots and lots of plastics.

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Email info@fossilfreearoundtheworld.org

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