International Recycling Day: when reusing changes lives and improves the world

Forests cover 30% of the Earth’s surface and they are an important source of clean air and water, as well as essential to fight climate change, according to United Nations. Through SDG 15, it calls on citizens to save and recover land-based ecosystems by 2020.

To achieve this goal, it’s important to recycle the waste that we produce. Every 17th of May, International Recycling Day is celebrated, to encourage us to reflect about the society’s attitude towards its discarded materials. Some entrepreneurs of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation develop businesses based on recycling. Today, we want to shine a spotlight on them: people who are environmentally aware and decided to venture into ‘green businesses’, to do their part and actively support the SDG, making way for a better world.

Clarivel is one such entrepreneur. She is part of an 11-women group in the Javillar community (Puerto Plata, República Dominicana), who constitute ‘RePapel’, a business that recycles disposed paper from the streets or offices. They visit schools, companies and other places who donate used paper to be transformed into a new product.

Clarivel and two of her colleagues from ‘RePapel’

This female entrepreneur of the BBVAMF’s Dominican MFI shares that setting this activity up was very tough, but she and her colleagues were determined, so with the support of Banco Adopem, they pushed through and opened up a paper recycling factory, which is now their source of income. “For us, it was very difficult because we had to work for several months without earning. We couldn’t sell because nobody knew about us, but then we started to attend fairs and other events where we started to make a name for ourselves, until we gained clientele”, she assures.

Even if it means hard work, they attend to every detail so that the recycling process is as natural as possible. The colored pieces are separated from the rest so they don’t contaminate the paper pulp; they use their hands instead of scissors to cut the materials and they don’t use chemical products, only water.

“Companies who buy this paper want their clients to see that they support green projects. We have the option to use another faster method, but we prefer to practice what we are currently doing, which is working with our hands”, she says.

Clarivel’s case is not unique. In the same country, we find José, who has worked during the past four years recycling carton. He starts at 7 in the morning, gathering cartons from the trash so he could take it to his factory. His concern about the environment has paved way for him to capitalize on this material, collecting up to 2.000 tons of cartons a year.

He started collecting cartons in a cart, roaming through the streets so he could compress and sell them. However, in 2016, he requested for a loan from Banco Adopem. This allowed him to buy a hydraulic press and hire several people to help him. Now, he proudly looks at his business which he built from scratch; a business that does not only provide for him and his family, but is also a source of income for ten more families.

Like Clarivel and José, Sandra also decided to go into the recycling business. Paper, carton, plastic containers, newspapers, magazines, metals, cans, plastic bags, bottles, glass, old clothes… for this Chilean female entrepreneur, everything could be transformed and reused, even herself- 3 years ago, she decided to turn her life around and work full-time on what has only been a hobby until then.

For now, I would like to live on this, on used materials, which can be transformed into unique items, with work and devotion

“There was a moment when I decided to pursue my dreams”, shares Sandra, when asked about how her business came about. Hers is a label that represents modern handicrafts made from recycled materials to create trinkets, accessories and other decorative items. “For now, I can make a living with these, reused materials which I transform into unique items, with work and devotion”, she adds. Since its beginning, Fondo Esperanza has accompanied her along the way until now, when her business is starting to take off.

All of these stories are clear examples that it doesn’t matter how used or worn-out things are, they can always give way to a new product, a new business… and even a new life.

Laura García, Communication BBVAMF