In the Sahara desert, halfway between the sand and the scorching sun, real mountains of plastic and waste are hidden.
Most of the refugee camps hosted by the Sahara Desert are completely dependent on humanitarian aid. Food, water and basic necessities arrive thanks to the rescue trucks; waste, on the other hand, has no way of being disposed of. Plastics, garbage and debris are dumped nearby in a constantly growing pile.
Thanks to a slow redevelopment process, the plastic is crushed into small pieces, washed, dried and then melted and pressed to create new objects. Refugees thus have the opportunity to turn garbage into furniture and other easily usable products.
A plastic desert (for now)
The initiative is due to Precious Plastic , an organization dedicated to recycling that relies on a revolutionary recycling system, developed by a young Dutch designer.
The project was born after the request for help sent by the United Nations for refugees, UNHCR, which has promoted initiatives aimed at "changing things".
Towards the end of 2021, a United Nations team built a new building to house the recycling center of the plastic, while Precious Plastic provided the necessary equipment.
Refugees protect the Sahara desert from plastic
The machines that sort, clean and dry the plastic are managed by the refugees themselves. With a little training, the men and women of the camp quickly learned how to sort and process the different materials.
"We had some design sessions where we talked about what is possible and how to use this plastic material"
At the moment, the UN pays a group of refugees to work at the recycling center. In about a year, they will own part of the property. The first products will be sold to organizations supporting desert communities who need furniture and small items.
The project is a beautiful attempt to help, a simple means of improving life in the area.