Monthly update for January 2022

Hello everyone! What a month it has been! Since the last update this region has faced one of the coldest Januaries in living memory. In Halabja it was down to -15C every night for nearly two weeks causing water pipes to freeze and burst, heavy snowfall (60 cm in 24 hours in some areas) made travel difficult and caused basic supplies to run low in remote villages higher up. All throughout this period we have been constantly reminded of our good fortune in having a roof over our heads and a trusty kerosene heater in our kitchen. Thankfully this freak weather event is behind us and despite the weather we have had a successful and productive month in Halabja. We are proud to announce that we have two amazing dedicated people working with us! Shnyar Yadgar and Rzgar Hawary have already proved to be invaluable team members.

Having studied electrical engineering in Halabja and already being experienced working in the environmental field, Shynar is exactly the kind of person we have been looking for. She is competent to take care of the high power circuitry in the machinery and she is not shy of picking up the phone anytime and speaking with any CEO bigwig or being interviewed, on camera, on her very first day. We also have our second new team mate, Rzgar, working with us, he is ingenuitive and entrepreneurial. Having a lot of practical work experience he is full of ideas about how we can succeed in this region and we love his work ethic. We know that together they will do a great job of running this recycling centre.

We are finally getting somewhere with our two production plants, it’s been somewhat of a challenge to source certain components, for example Dominik and I spent the best part of a day in Sulaymaniyah to find the right model of PID controllers for setting the temperatures of the heating elements in the extruder and sheet press. We could just order these things from Europe but we want to prove as much as possible that this machinery can be constructed from components both bought and crafted in Kurdistan; moreover now that we have connected with the right local businesses it will be much easier to replicate these machines in the future. Very soon we will be able to start creating our first products and we can’t wait to get creative with plastic.

Thanks to WADI we had the funds to design and build ten large metal plastic bottle collection bins which we will install around the city in the schools and university campus. These are made of mesh so that there is maximum peer pressure not to throw any old rubbish in and we will encourage everyone to place the bottle lids (made from HDPE plastic) into the small box and the rest of the bottle (mainly PET plastic) into the main container. We’ve also been handing out leaflets and heavy duty bin bags in the neighborhood around the recycling centre which request to folk to bring us their cleaned(!) waste plastic from home. Due to the weather, school holidays were extended and examinations postponed meaning that we have been unable to start collecting plastic from them but starting this week the environmental seminars given by our colleagues at NWE ORG halabja organization will resume and coincide nicely with the installation of the new bottle collection bins. We were unable to schedule a meeting with the municipality in January but gladly a meeting is now scheduled for this week. Unfortunately the meeting with the Institute of Fine Arts didn’t lead to collaboration but thankfully the owner of the workshop is a painter and decorator and gladly painted the walls and pillars inside. The amazing resident artist at NWE, Hosna, has very kindly created and donated two big paintings to the workshop. So the work space makeover has been a success so far! Dominic and I presented two seminars to the University of Halabja; introducing the Green City Halabja campaign and the various other projects which are part of it but also explaining in more detail our ideas to help solve the plastic problem here and elsewhere. We are so grateful for the positive response from the students and lecturers alike. What a great place. Already we are planning to implement cleaning days in local beauty spots which are heavily polluted with discarded plastic together with students from the university.

Goals for February:

• Installing a plastic washing system in the workshop which is water efficient (once plastic is shredded it will be washed again)

• Completing the sheet press and extrusion machines

• Set in place the plastic bottle collection bins in the schools and university

• Conduct our first cleaning day in a local beauty spot (probably Ahmad Awa waterfall)• Delivering the first load of plastic to the local recycling centre

Thanks for your support!

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Here is a link to our fundraising campaign. Every contribution makes a difference!

Another option is to donate money directly to the bank account of the non-profit organisation Travel for Smiles e.V.:

IBAN: DE34 7435 0000 0020 9106 73