Lanka Upcycles: Making Waves of Change in Waste Less Arugam Bay
Upcycles is a social enterprise located in the surfer’s paradise of Arugam Bay
on the east coast of Sri Lanka. They are making waves with novel approaches to addressing
the ocean plastic pollution through its Waste Less Arugam Bay (WLAB) project funded
by USAID’s Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP).
WLAB operates an environmental education center on plastic recycling and a water refill station in the heart of Arugam Bay. As a result of partnering with the local government, restaurants, guest houses and hotels in Arugam Bay WLAB collected and recycled 7 metric tons of PET bottles (~235,000 plastic bottles) as of end of September, 2020. The bottles are sold to a national recycling firm, Eco Spindles Pvt Ltd., and turned into polyester yarn and a variety of upcycled products. In 2019, WLAB became Fair Trade verified by the World Fair Trade Organization (https://wfto.com) and offered the first of its kind fair trade recycled plastic products in the European market.
Using open-source designs provided by Precious Plastic (www.preciousplastic.com), WLAB built small-scale machines to demonstrate how plastic can be upcycled to educate tourists and community residents on alternative uses of plastic waste. Precious Plastic is an open source project that offers solutions to solving the plastic waste problem through sharing business models, machine designs, and “how-to” guides.
As a continuation of the WLAB, Lanka Upcycles distributed a manual on the Precious Plastic online community forum on how to start a recycling and upcycling project in a booming tourist area. The “how to” manual aims to assist the Precious Plastic community members and inspire social entrepreneurs to replicate this kind of project in their own communities.