On May 12, 2022, Mercy Corps and the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, and Industry announced the release of Timor-Leste’s first catalog dedicated to locally made upcycled and recycled products. On this occasion, Dili’s Centro de Informação Turística was transformed into an exhibition and networking space for a dozen of upcyclers and recyclers, who were able to interact directly with the event participants and market their creations.
Like many countries around the world, Timor-Leste faces the urgent challenge of finding solutions to manage a growing stream of plastic, which not only harms its environment, but threatens the health of its communities, undermines the potential of its nascent, but promising, tourism industry, and increases its vulnerability to climate and urban flood risks.
In response, Mercy Corps and the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, and Industry, are cooperating to advance responsible plastic use and circular economy approaches that can deliver effective reduce, reuse, and recycle strategies within the country’s resources. Since December 2021, this initiative aims at boosting the emergence of a growing movement of local changemakers, and the establishment of an inclusive post-consumer plastic value chain that can help Timor-Leste protect its marine and terrestrial ecosystems, preserve the health and safety of its people, bring a measure of diversification to its economy, and add to its small manufacturing base to expand employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Designed in collaboration with the Plastics Solutions Alliance, the goal of the new catalog is to inspire vocations, stimulate demand for recycled content, and connect local upcycling and recycling groups – who often lack exposure, access to partners, and spaces to display and sell their products – with new clients. The publication forms part of a broader series of initiatives focused on empowering communities to prevent plastic pollution and helping local entrepreneurs build innovative businesses, to drive social change, and ultimately, make it more economically feasible to collect, sort and reprocess materials in Timor-Leste.
The Plastics Solutions Alliance is a cross-sector partnership between USAID, KOICA, the European Union, Caltech, Heineken, and Mercy Corps dedicated to accelerating the transition towards a circular economy, whereby unnecessary plastic use is curtailed and replaced, plastic waste is disposed of responsibly and turned into sought-after products, and resource recovery systems support Timor-Leste’s vision to become a recognized tourism destination, respectful of its natural beauty and cultural heritage.
All photos credit to: Mercy Corps