During the grand 63′ carnival parade of Aruba we had our first pop up event. This is a description of that experience.

Plastic recycling in Aruba!

Recycling is not a thing in Aruba. While people definitely recognize the need for an alternative to the toxic burning trash hill that is our landfill the absence of an alternative has also made people complacent. The fact that in many parts of the world recycling is subsidized allowing it to be free, or even compensated, has created high expectations.

As a small crowd-funded start-up of $5000, with no market for plastic pellets, we need customers to see recycling as a valuable service. So we went out to sell this service. For 25 florin (US$17) we offered kavels(carnival viewing lots) recycling; a large bag to collect their plastic and as a sign to show off that they recycle. There are about 150 kavels, with 50 people each, each producing an average of 1 kilo of plastic, mostly cups and bottles.

This was our first time selling recycling as a service, it was exciting to “test the market”. Our expectation going in was that 10% or 15 kavels would  participate. To our surprise going down the road, in the first half of the parade we already had 30 registrations, 4x what we expected! We are so happy with this huge outpour of support and Nydia, our team mates, who talked to each and every kavel.

We should mention that we also put flyers on the other half of the parade and nobody reached out to us. Indicating that when confronted in person people were willing to take part, but that the urgency didn’t get people to reach out for themselves.

Waste collection

With 30 kavels on board, we went on to build bag hooks, plastic beach party logo’s and a pallet collection float. We did this using recycled cardboard, and pallets, and we got logo printouts donated by the monumenten fonds of Aruba. Our plan was to get the float into the last lap, so we might be a fun addition to the parade, with our fossil fuel free collection system. We asked around and this plan seemed doable. Unfortunately, the police kicked us out of the last lap and we ended up having to go behind the DOW trucks, which end the parade and open the road to traffic, this also meant that the trash bags were all over the ground and we were stuck behind the diesel exhaust.


We diverted about 10 kilos of plastic waste from the landfill!

The collected bags show us that people understood that they had to separate their waste, there was an occasional glass bottle or can in there, and some food scraps but it was mostly plastic. In total we got about 10 kilos of waste out of which 6 was plastic, bottles and cans even though much less in number weigh a lot more. The amount of waste collected was much less than expected but at most groups we could see that a lot of plastic waste got caught in the non-recycling bags, communicating that plastic should all go in one place is hard with a big group of often drunk people.

Where did the waste go? 

In the end we needed to send one small bag of food-scraps, soggy paper and sunblock spray-cans to the dump. The beer cans will be turned into aluminum molds with the help from Jamal Khan, the plastic will be turned into re-usable products, and the glass  bottles either recycled at Balashi or turned into re-usable cups!

What will we do with it?

  • PLA can be turned into 3D printing filament
  • Shrink film & mystery plastics will be compressed into blocks that we want to use for fun public utility projects.
  • PET, PP, PS & HDPE can be turned into trash cans, coasters, clipboards and other things.

The cost of recycling

Recycling is labor intensive. It took us 20 hours to get everything ready. 2.5 hours to put out all the bags, and then another 5 hours to pick up all the trash bags. The next day it was another 5 hours to clean all the plastic, and put it out in the sun to dry, because it rained, it took me another 3 hours wipe the dirt of all the dried plastic and  then separate it by sort.

It will likely cost us about 40 hours to process all the plastic, however we will be doing as much of it as possible with aruba DOET allowing people to get an insight into the process. We are using an upgraded paper shredder making the process quite slow. Additionally melting plastic is an energy intensive process. And all of those bags will likely only make about 10 products.

We’re sharing this to indicate the work that needs to go into recycling, as well as the value of it, and while we hope to grow fast during the year and expand our recycling capacity we’d also like to ask you to value this process but also produce less waste.

Use less plastic

“Plastic packaging [… ] is and will remain the largest application (of plastic), currently, packaging represents 26% of the total volume of plastic used” (Ellen McArthur Foudation, 2016). As consumers it’s hard to change how products are delivered to us, but 25% of the plastic collected was plastic cups.  We can avoid using throw away plasticware. That’s why we are giving a set of 24 up-cycled glasses, handmade with love out of up-cycled imported bottles (which are not recycled in Aruba), and served on an awesome wooden tray made from scrap-wood! The winner was selected by Google random number generator as number 4, congratulations Germile Geerman!

Thank you from the plastic beach party team and occasional volunteers! Follow our adventures on facebook and instagram.