Hello everyone! I am Maher Oudira from Tunisia, located in the northernmost part of Africa. Tunisia is a small country with a population of around 12 million and a GDP per capita of approximately $3,800, but it is known for its beautiful Mediterranean coastline and retains the charm of a Mediterranean country. With a mix of French, Arab, and North African cultures, Tunisia is often known as the jewel of North Africa due to its stunning architectural styles.
Did you know that Tunisia is currently struggling with waste management issues? With an annual production of about 2.5 million tons of waste, Tunisia is facing a waste overload due to inadequate waste treatment facilities and a lack of long-term vision, regulations, and plans to address the issue. Only about 5% of the collected waste is being recycled. It's sad to see waste piling up in this beautiful country.
Now, I am going to introduce the unsung heroes of Tunisia who are working towards solving this social issue!
They are waste pickers of Tunisia! The waste pickers are individuals who collect recyclable waste from streets, waste bins, etc, and sell them to recycling factories to make a living. According to WWF, these informal sector workers, such as waste pickers,are responsible for collecting about 80% of recyclable plastic waste in Tunisia. They are the unsung heroes behind the scenes complementing Tunisia's waste and recycling management system and protecting the environment!
The Ministry of Social Affairs in Tunisia estimates that there are over 8,000 waste pickers in the country. However, due to the lack of relevant regulations, these individuals are not socially recognized and often work in extremely difficult conditions. They face numerous challenges such as dangerous working environments, limited access to sanitation, social security, healthcare, and low income. Not to mention, the task of collecting and transporting scraps to nearby recycling centers is also physically demanding.
To make Tunisia beautiful again, we need to act now to provide safer and more stable working environments for the waste pickers, the unsung heroes.
That is how I started the self-reliance project, Green Alafco! Through my experience working in the aluminum can manufacturing industry, we recycle used aluminum cans(UBC) into industrial aluminum. We collect thrown-away aluminum cans on the streets, process them, and resell them to companies that originally produced them. This way, we create additional value on the waste and contribute to a circular economy where resources are constantly used over and over in a closed loop. We also recycle not only UBC but also plastic and other materials. We are working hard for our goal to achieve 100% of waste recycled.
Then, how do we collect all the wastes? You guess it right! We do it through the waste pickers. They bring the collected waste to our recycling center, and we pay them a price per weight. We cannot work without one another. Therefore, it is a Win-Win growth we pursue!
In pursuit of the Win-Win growth, Green Alafco supports the social inclusion of marginalized waste pickers through the Seven-Pillars projects, as shown in the above illustration.
In the Seven-Pillars project, we are deeply working on their social and financial inclusion. We recognize the importance of the waste pickers to society and the environment, and provide them with personal safety clothes for safe working conditions, as well as free vaccination through an association of vlounteer doctors. So far, we have distributed over 30 sets of the safety clothes and conducted several free vaccination campaigns.
Currently, as the final phase of the Seven-Pillars project, we are focusing on innovative recycling through Social Reverse Vending Machines(SRVM). By installing SRVM in various locations in the community, we aim to reduce the effort of waste pickers to travel long distances to the recycling center, and enable them to work more easily. As a significant number of them are women, reducing the travel distance is expected to increase the productivity by up to twice as much.
Through impact donations from The Bridge, we plan to accelerate the development of SRVM. We want to continue the Seven-Pilliars project for the mutual growth and empowerment with the waste pickers.
Your impact donation can keep Green Alafco and the waste pickers together for the Earth!