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How Port-au-Prince's water sachets are clogging up its stree

  • Time:2016-06-30
  • water purification for home
  • Limited access to safe drinking water is an ongoing struggle in Haiti. One of the most popular solutions to this are sachés dlo, 9oz water bags that are sold in every corner of the country. At three bags for five gourdes (about 7p), water bags are an affordable option for a population with a 60% unemployment rate. However, in the capital, Port-au-Prince, many thousands of discarded water bags are clogging up the city’s streets and rivers. All photographs: Bahare Khodabande Facebook Twitter Pinterest Sachés dlo are often distributed in Haitian schools. According to the World Bank, waterborne diseases are one of the leading causes of child mortality Facebook Twitter Pinterest With the temperature constantly above 30C in summer, they are the cheapest, most practical way to keep hydrated Facebook Twitter Pinterest Merchants transport the water bags around the central Haitian commune of Saut-d’Eau Facebook Twitter Pinterest There are very few rubbish bins on the streets, and those that do exist are often overloaded and unusable Facebook Twitter Pinterest Most of the plastic bags end up on the streets and in rivers, causing environmental and health issues, particularly in slums and poorer areas Facebook Twitter Pinterest ‘We tried to negotiate a recycling plan with the government. They increased taxes on plastic, which led us to believe that there would be trash collections and recycling, but nothing ever happened,’ says Alex Zamor, vice-president of the Alaska water production factory in Port-au-Prince Facebook Twitter Pinterest ‘They want us to pay the costs of recycling,’ says Zamor. Since the international market is not interested in buying the recycled plastic bags, Alaska would have to raise prices to cover the cost of recycling – which defeats the purpose of producing affordable sanitised water. Alaska, alone, produces 1,800,000 bags a day Facebook Twitter Pinterest However, there are no laws and regulations in place, according to Zamor, to control the quality of the water that’s being packaged. Any individual with a packaging machine can start producing and selling water bags, with no supervision Facebook Twitter Pinterest A small organisation called Peace Cycle started a recycling initiative in Port-au-Prince about a year ago, where they collect, wash and sanitise used water bags, and make shoulder bags and accessories from them Facebook Twitter Pinterest Peace Cycle now has 11 staff members. Rose Heimann, founder of the organisation, and her team recycle about 500 used water bags a day Facebook Twitter Pinterest The products produced by Peace Cycle are sold for anywhere between $3 for small pouches to $24 for larger bags. ‘We sell about 10 products a week,’ says Rose. ‘I wish there was an understanding of how labour-intensive this is, and just because it’s made out of trash doesn’t mean it can be free’ Facebook Twitter Pinterest