TUI Care Foundation at Curacao: Children as environmental ambassadors

Who cooks themselves when there are delicacies to be bought everywhere, and at unbeatable prices? Curaçao, a small melting pot in the Caribbean, is one huge international kitchen. A great way to eat under the shade of palm trees – but where does the rubbish go afterwards? Until a few years ago, the answer was usually: anywhere. Today, anyone who simply throws away empty packaging risks provoking anger, especially from children. They know that the pleasure of the food and the enthusiasm of the tourists will only last if rubbish is disposed of properly.

They have learned this from GreenKidz Curaçao, the charity that has been teaching children about recyclable materials and the use of waste since 2015. In their study sessions, nine to twelve-year-olds learn that shampoo bottles, aluminium and tin cans are not waste, but raw materials. They practice correctly disposing of these substances in special recycling bins, of which there are an ever-increasing number on their island. Curaçao is yet to obtain a modern waste management system, so a large proportion of waste and raw materials end up, unsorted, in landfills.

People are barely aware of the importance of caring for their island in this respect. Various initiatives are committed to change this. The environmental company Green Force Curaçao collects reusable materials to recycle them. GreenKidz trains the children to be expert recyclers and to pass on the message themselves. The TUI Care Foundation supports GreenKidz financially, so that the charity can pay for educational materials, excursions and teachers. Together with Green Force, the TUI Care Foundation and TUI are working together in areas where they can directly make a difference.

Tourism makes up one-fifth of Curaçao’s economy; one in four jobs depends directly on the industry. More than a million holidaymakers visit the island every year. Around half come for day trips or make a stopover during a cruise. Almost half a million book longer holidays, to snorkel, relax on the beach and stroll through the city. Thirty-three recycling stations – each with three boxes, for plastic, aluminium and residual waste – are located throughout TUI contracted hotels and resorts, beach restaurants and offices. The operations subscribe to the Green Force collection service and their staff receive appropriate training.

The aim is to get as many companies as possible to follow this example. Decommissioned shipping containers haveshown themselves to make ideal collecting stations. With the support of the TUI Care Foundation, Green Force has set up an adapted 40-foot container at the Van Den Tweel supermarket in Willemstad. Before setting off to go shopping, customers pack up their reusable materials and then deposit them into the appropriate bins in the supermarket car park. If there is any doubt, the children always know what’s what.

At the GreenKidz workshop, they practice at mini-recycling stations made of cardboard: plastic bottles that are not PET (e.g. milk jugs and shampoo bottles) are placed in the grey box and, depending on their type and colour. PET plastic bottles go in the blue, green or white boxes. To the children, this feels like the kind of sorting games they will have played as tiny children and it is lots of fun. It takes nature 450 years to decompose a plastic bottle. Even a wafer-thin plastic bag decays only after 90 years, while an apple core, in sharp contrast, takes just two weeks. This is what it says on the card that the GreenKidz guest teacher passes around the class. The charity has developed a programme designed to reach as many schoolchildren as possible and to deeply anchor an awareness of plastics and recycling. The interactive educational material is available free of charge on the Internet both in Dutch, the administrative language, and in the second official language, Papiamentu. Like many of their parents, lots of children on Curaçao want to go on to work in the tourism industry. Thanks to GreenKidz, they are already learning today. But this will only succeed if everyone works towards a clean island.

The first three years of support for this project by TUI Care Foundation ended in 2017, but support will be continued in 2018. For more details on this project also check out the magazine of TUI Care Foundation (from page 16).