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More turtles, less plastic

Reflecting on recycling practices in the Caribbean, Sabine Berendse, ceo of Green Phenix, says: ‘I see positive developments but there is still a lot of litter, and landfilling is the main waste management strategy. Generally, sustainability related topics remain complicated for island states.’

She hopes to bring about change with her company which was founded in 2018 to support sea turtle conservation efforts on Curacao by reducing plastic pollution in the marine environment.

Following several successful beach clean-up projects, Berendse suddenly had a lot of material on her hands. She was convinced it could be put to good use, envisioning a circular system for post-consumer plastics.

‘Our operations started in my back yard with two extruders, two 3D printers and a powder grinder, Berendse recalls. ‘Twelve people joined us as part of an educational programme and together we started to collect plastic waste bottles and process them into flakes.’

In 2020, her team moved to a new location in Zeelandia, allowing Green Phenix to scale up to 24 workers. ‘We focus on collecting as much plastic waste as possible, sorting, cleaning and creating single material flakes which we use to produce new items such Precious Plastic building bricks and 3D printed items,’ Berendse explains.

She laments that every island in the region is dealing with a mountain of plastic waste, mostly PET, HDPE and PP. ‘Low prices on the market and high transportation costs are challenging and therefore local solutions are important.’

Green Phenix is currently collaborating on one the 45 projects within the EU-funded RESEMBID consortium. With a total budget of almost EUR 23 million, the endeavour targets bio-diversity, eco resilience and sustainable energy in the Caribbean. 

‘Beyond that, I hope to launch an initiative next year called the Recycling Maker Space. It will serve as a melting pot for local artists who will have machines and material at their disposal to create anything they want. The idea is to promote both circularity and social inclusion.’

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