Plastic waste forms one of the largest water pollutants in the world. According to world statistics on waste management, 6.3 billion metric tons out of the 8.3 billion metric tons produced end up as plastic waste. Only 9% of this waste has been recycled with majority of the plastic waste (approximately 90%) accumulating and poisoning the natural environment. A good amount of this plastic waste finds itself into the ocean with experts saying the number could triple by 2040. In Haiti, the situation isn’t any different. As is the case in most other developing countries, waste management in some areas of Haiti is either lacking, deficient or ineffective. In the midst of all these, a few individuals have come forward to help alleviate the problem through effective waste management systems. Here is the story of one remarkable young lady, Nel -Ange ST CYR, and her inspiring in managing plastic waste.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am Nel-Ange ST CYR, founder and director of VALPLASTHAITI. I am 23 years old. We recycle plastic waste into material that can be repurposed. My passion is in protecting the environment to contribute to the conservation of the planet for future generations. I am a final year student in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Quisqueya University in Haiti. At age 21, I started a plastic waste recycling company in Haiti, known as VALPLAST. My credo is that I was born to fight for the environment.
Please tell us more about Valplast.
Of the millions of tons of plastic waste produced each year in Haiti, only 12% of it is recycled. Statistics reveal that all Haitian people are very vulnerable to pollution. Children are, however, the most affected facing the consequences of air pollution, health issues and water pollution.
My company targets the most vulnerable areas in the country and recycles their plastic waste. This exercise produces sustainable and affordable construction materials for them. We produce bricks, blocks and paving stones from plastic waste. These materials are then used to build houses for poor families, orphanages, schoolyards, roads and other sustainable development projects.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
I have always felt concerned about the piles of garbage that are everywhere in my environment in Haiti. Since I was a child, I remember seeing people at the public market selling food in environments with a lot of trash. Today, there are mountains of garbage everywhere in our streets, we breathe the unpleasant odors every day. From that tender age, I purposed to get actively involved in waste management in my country. When I turned 18, I started working in organic waste management by making compost. I also supported a plastic waste recycler to recycle plastic waste into handicrafts in my neighborhood. At age 21, I discovered the new technology of transforming plastic into paving stones. Since then, I’ve been working in this sector to transform something harmful to the environment into something useful for the well-being of the Haitian population.
What is the process of transforming plastic into paving stones?
We have different processes. First, we collect plastic bottles and bags in the streets of some cities in Haiti. Then we take them to our sorting site to sort the good plastics, clean and wash them. Afterward, we melt the plastic waste in a tank and mix it with sand. After these processes, we proceed to mold and demold to have the finished products.
Who oversees this process for you?
We have 3 motivated young people who are working hard in the recycle center: 2 operators and 1 supervisor. They are 3 young Haitian youth who received a training in plastics transformation. They have been working with us since the beginning of building prototypes until now.
What are you hoping to achieve in the next 2 years?
In the next two years, we would like to see our company recycle plastic waste in more than one city in Haiti. We would like to see our repurposed material being used to build more schools in vulnerable areas, more streets in Haiti, and other sustainable development projects.
Our vision is really to implement the culture of recycling in most, if not all, neighborhoods in Haiti. We hope to teach them how they can use plastics and turn them into useful products.
What are the challenges of developing a business from Haiti?
It is not easy to do what we do. We have a lot of problems to solve in Haiti but the lack of resources makes it difficult to bring the right solution at the right time. We have the intelligence; the skills; the will; the nice team to bring change in our community. But sometimes the insecurity in the country, poverty (lack of economic resources) are the challenge that we have to overcome.
Even though it's difficult to develop a business in Haiti, my motivation is higher than the insecurity that is my reality every day. I am also not fazed by the lack of economic resources, and this is why my business will succeed.
What challenges are you facing in your recycling business?
Valplast is still using traditional technology to transform waste into building materials. The company is not able to recycle a lot of plastics per day. Only 28kg of plastics can be recycled per day with our current technology. Our big challenge is to change the technology into industrial technology where we can recycle up to 100kg of plastic waste per day.
How can we help you?
Valplast will be very grateful if you can contribute to our journey of recycling plastics in Haiti by helping us having a plastic melter densifier machine and a shredder. With these, we will be able to increase the rate of plastic recycled in the company. Overall, we will be able to contribute more to bettering the livelihoods of Haitians. The Valplast team is open to communicate more about what we are doing, what we need and how you can contribute on LinkedIn.
Interested in learning more about women creating solutions to reduce plastic waste? Learn about how Stephanie Regni, founder of Fillgood launched our company to reduce plastic waste.