February Update for Plastic Recycling Project

Hello everyone!

February has been a busy month for us here in Halabja. Spring is here and the hills around us have turned a vibrant green. It has become clear that we will be working in Iraqi Kurdistan for at least the next year which is very exciting.

Shredup is now part of a broader local campaign which is called Green City Halabja. This campaign consists of several different projects which all aim to combat environmental pollution, connect people with the beautiful nature in a sustainable way and to show the region that Halabja has more to offer the world than a history lesson about the chemical attacks which happened here in 1988. It is a grass roots campaign which means it will be implemented by citizens in a self-organized way. Halabja is taking a pioneering position with this campaign in Kurdistan and more broadly in the middle east. In the first year of the campaign, from the 16th of March 2022, the focus is on fighting plastic pollution, building a community forest garden dedicated to victims of chemical attacks around the world and establishing the first marked hiking trails in the nearby mountains.

At the very beginning of February, alongside our colleagues from NWE ORG halabja and WADI we met with Kwestan, the head of the Halabja province municipality, at her office in the city centre. As a local person, she was very pleased to be presented with the concept of the campaign and has offered the help of the municipality as much as is needed.

We had set ourselves some ambitious targets for the month which included getting our production plants ready. We are still working on this. Unfortunately, there was a slight spanner in the works: we had a bout of covid-19 which knocked us back a while but at least the sun was out and we had been able to set up our office on the roof.

Covid aside, we managed to place most of the plastic collection bins in our partner schools and they have been a big hit so far. Every bin we place in a school is accompanied by Shnyar giving an awesome seminar about plastic pollution and encouraging the students to discard of their waste responsibly. We are really inspired by how well received these bins are and how active the children are in keeping their environment clean.

With some students from the University of Halabja we conducted a day of litter picking near the famous water fall of Ahmad Awa. This was a super fun day of saving plastic from ending up in the river and enjoying the epic picnic prepared by the students for lunch. The waste which was recyclable we took back to our workspace for sorting while everything non-recyclable was left in bags at the side of the road for the municipality rubbish trucks to collect. That is the power of cooperation!

Plastic is really starting to flow into the recycling centre: Both from collecting the recycling bins we placed in the schools and cafes but also the amount of donated plastic from the local community is steadily increasing which is very encouraging. For all the collected plastic that exceeds our processing capacity we are looking into purchasing a machine to compress it into compact bails in order to transport it to larger recycling facilities efficiently.

On a final note. A chance encounter in the bazar led us to meet Hoshyar Byawelaiy – an incredible person. Disabling over two million mines over his thirty-four-year career and losing two legs in the process, he has dedicated his life to ensuring a safe environment for future generations. He took us for a drive on a bright spring afternoon to his home village near Halabja and it was inspiring to see families picnicking and enjoying the sunshine on grassy slopes which were, until relatively recently, strewn with landmines. Making nature safe for people to enjoy and allowing farmers to reclaim land lost to them during the Iran-Iraq war, his work is absolutely invaluable here.

Goals for March:

– Completing the sheet press and extrusion machines

– Delivering the first load of plastic to the local recycling centre

– Production of the first products

– Make more recycling bins

– Increase our network of partner schools

– A successful opening of our recycling centre to the public on the 16th!

Thanks for your support!