Irene Sequiera’s story about her job at “Kiosk Verde”, a green shop for recycled products, holds out hope for the early-stage development of circular economy in Timor-Leste which can potentially address the issue of municipal solid waste (MSW) and unemployment in the capital, Dili. The shop is part of Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) that is managed by Rede HASATIL, a Dili-based environmental NGO, with funding from the Ministry of State Administration and UNDP’ Recycling Pilot Promotion (RPP) Project.
“I have been running Kiosk Verde with the support from seven (7) young female volunteers since November 2020,” says the lady who volunteers her free time to engage in socialization activities in her community in suco Motael.
Irene’s daily task at the Kiosk consists of establishing network with offices and agencies around suco Motael to supply plastic waste, coordinating the market of recycled products from Rede HASATIL’s networks, and mentoring the volunteers on the design and manual production of affordable household products for the shop.
“On top of running the workshop, I am also supporting eleven (11) youth and women groups to make products from recycling materials that we sell here. For example, some plastic flowers belong to the volunteer group under my lead while the vases from used water bottles belong to a group in Caicoli and the photo frames from Tasi-Tolu,” she explains.
In sharing her first impression of the profitability of recycling market, Irene admits that she initially had her doubts about it.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if we can attract customers interested in buying our products, but I have been proven wrong,” says Irene.
Since the launch of IWMF and Kiosk Verde in November 2020, Irene claims that the shop has sold more than 120 items which exceeds the project target. Buyers are mainly local and foreigners who visit the shop in Farol or the stations during different fairs around Dili.
As for the profit, Irene admits that it is not significant at this stage due to low number of buyers and relatively low price per unit.
“Although the profit is not yet significant, it encourages us to come up with highly more creative and polished design that can hopefully compete with other cheap products in the local market one day,” she hopes.
The recycled plastic product requires a labor-intensive process. It begins with washing and cutting of plastic waste sorted and collected from various sources. The group then brainstorm for the design of different two- and three-dimensional shapes based on what they see in the market or using pure imagination before moving into construction part.
“We use two techniques, the first one being hand cutting, iron compressing, and folding of the materials to form leaves and petals. The other one is the application of plastic molding machine to form various geometrical shapes,” she says.
The four-set machine supported by the project comprises of a shredder which breaks down PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) bottles into flakes, the primary material for the other two machines. There is an extrusion machine for producing continuous length filaments to form various shapes, injection machine to generate tiles, and compression machine to produce high-density products in various shapes.
The RPP project is managed by UNDP Timor-Leste in close partnership with Ministry of State Administration and Secretary of State for the Environment between May 2019 and December 2021. Implemented in fours sucos in Dili municipality, namely Motael, Colmera, Caicoli, and Campo Alor, the project aims to create recycling-based jobs and livelihood through sustainable solid waste management and integrated recycling facility.
According to an audit study conducted by ADB in 2015, plastic bags and bottles accounts for 18% of 90 tonnes of daily MSW (Municipality Solid Waste) generated by the urban population in Dili, Timor-Leste
More than 1000 households, community members, youth volunteers from suco and youth groups have benefited from IWMF. This includes job and volunteering opportunities as well as capacity building trainings and knowledge on sustainable waste management particularly in waste segregations using 4R (Refuse, Reduce, Recycle and Recover) approaches.
In addition,18 recycling businesses have received business incubation support as well as marketing and grant opportunities offered by IWMF and its development partners.
“Thanks to the fund from the project, Rede HASATIL can establish an integrated system to make use of plastic waste that is becoming a big problem in Dili,” she acknowledges.