OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Tackling Child Labor in Plastic Collection in Haiti

We are leveraging the sourcing power of global brands to create a responsible plastic collection system, free of child labor, in Haiti.

Photo of Nicole
3 7

Written by

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

In response to the global plastic waste crisis, public pressure is pushing companies from Coca-Cola to H&M to use more recycled materials in production. At the same time, consumers, governments, and civil society are demanding responsible sourcing and transparency from companies.

Like many developing countries, Haiti has abundant plastic waste and an underdeveloped system to manage it. Thousands of people in Haiti, and millions across the developing world, earn an income collecting and selling waste, serving as their countries’ informal waste collection system.

Despite the availability of raw materials, sourcing recycled plastic from these places is risky for global brands. Plastic collection is often informal, unregulated, and vulnerable to human rights risks, including child labor. In Haiti, roughly 2,000 individuals collect plastic from the Tuittier landfill in Port-au-Prince, including 300 children who collect full-time to help support their families.

Child labor is a symptom of systemic poverty, lack of opportunity, and a weak social safety net. Parents in Truittier face the difficult choice of involving their children in collection in order to survive. Our idea is to transform plastic collection in Haiti into a formal industry that provides dignified jobs for parents, eliminating the root cause of child labor and offering global brands a responsible source of recycled plastic.

We will accomplish this through The First Mile Coalition, an initiative led by Thread International and its sister non-profit, Work, along with an association of plastic collectors and global brands, HP and Timberland. The Coalition tackles child labor using a market-based approach: Thread provides capital to build a responsible collection system and create formal jobs; brands commit to sourcing plastic through Thread’s supply chain, ensuring a buyer for recycled materials; and Work provides wraparound services for families, so children can move from collection to school.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)
Our primary beneficiaries are the 300 children collecting in the landfill and their families, who have come to Truittier to find a way to survive. We conducted a community survey to better understand our beneficiaries and learned:

97% of families in Truittier experience food insecurity, and 88% do not have access to clean water. 69% live in inadequate metal structures, with 24% in tents. On average, only half of children in each household are in school. Average dropout age is 10-years old, and children are on average 3.9 years behind in school. Most adults only have a 6th grade education.

With the support of global brands, we can make the First Mile Coalition the new standard for addressing child labor in global supply chains anywhere. In this way, we hope to build a model that will benefit people working at the bottom of supply chains globally.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Most companies’ response to discovering child labor in their supply chain is to ignore the issue or walk away. Abandoning Haiti as a sourcing destination only perpetuates the economic circumstances that create the problem in the first place.

Our approach is unique because it leverages the power of global brands to create a sustainable solution to child labor, ensuring that individuals working at the bottom of the supply chain are also able to prosper. By intentionally sourcing from Haiti, instead of walking away, these brands can build a viable market that financially supports families working in collection, thus reducing risk for other global brands interested in sourcing.

Our approach is also unique because it recognizes that simply prohibiting kids from collecting will not create lasting change. Instead, we must accompany entire families out of poverty, improving the quality of collection jobs so parents can work to support their families, and children can go to school.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Thread is a certified B-Corporation on a mission to transform trash in the poorest countries into dignified jobs and useful stuff people love.

Thread Website: https://threadinternational.com/

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.
  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Following the earthquake in 2010, Thread's CEO visited Haiti to support relief efforts. Struck by the abundance of waste and systemic poverty, he wrote in his journal, "If Haiti can turn plastic into $ = good." He founded Thread to turn waste into jobs. When Thread later learned that children were collecting and selling plastic in Truittier, we alerted our sourcing partners, HP and Timberland. Together, we made a commitment through the Clinton Global Initiative to address this challenge.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Our project influences prosperity and planet by tackling extreme poverty among plastic collectors and mitigating environmental degradation in Haiti.

Companies capitalizing on the drive for a circular economy are using recycled materials in their products and selling a compelling story to consumers. We want to ensure the value brands capture filters to collectors at the bottom of the supply chain, in order to build a more inclusive circular economy.

Currently, full-time collectors earn an average of $3 per day. Our project aims to increase job quality and income for collectors with the goal of at least doubling income to meet minimum wage. We will accomplish this by: investing capital to build a collection system at scale that provides formal jobs; driving demand among brands for recycled material; and ensuring a responsible supply chain free of child labor. Building a stronger plastic collection system in Haiti will also mitigate pollution, reducing waste across the country.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Work, Thread's sister nonprofit, is our lead implementation partner and provides wraparound services for children and families collecting in Truittier. Work has over seven years of experience working in the neighboring Menelas community of Port-au-Prince, accompanying families out of poverty through job training and placement.

ACOP, a local association of Haitian plastic collectors, is our link to the Truittier community. The members of ACOP organized themselves to tackle the problem of children collecting plastic in their community. They lead us in building trust with the children and families working in collection. They also help us to engage the community and implement programming.

Thread, HP, and Timberland are our for-profit partners working to strengthen the plastic supply chain. Thread provides capital to build a more organized, responsible collection system that offers formal jobs for collectors, while HP and Timberland source recycled material from the supply chain.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

While Thread, HP, and Timberland have a vested interest in establishing a responsible supply chain free of child labor, the drive to improve prosperity for collectors in Truittier comes from within the community. This community has strong, representative leadership in ACOP, a grassroots association of plastic collectors who self-organized to help the children collecting. ACOP is a strong advocate for the Truittier community and has been a key partner in implementing the Coalition's work.

Geographic Focus

The community of plastic collectors in the Truittier landfill, located in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Our goal is to move all 300 children working in Truittier out of plastic collection and into education, while ensuring that their parents/guardians secure living wage jobs. We have split these children into 6 cohorts of 50 kids and families. Services for each cohort begin with an intake process, followed by school placement for children and workforce development for parents. We have begun services for cohorts 1 and 2. We estimate that it will take 24 months to begin services for all 6 cohorts.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

3 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Brian Bauer of Attollo's Talking Stickers
Team

Nicole, BRILLIANT project! Amazing leadership by your CEO to bring an ugly truth to the spotlight and deal with it in a stoic and constructive manner. My company/proposal, Talking Stickers, might be a viable solution to help create improved opportunity for young children working in landfills-perhaps even their parents. We are actually focusing our proposal on benefiting Haitian children in Chile–where I live, and where 1% of Haiti has recently immigrated to.
But I just want to say, amazing work you and you team are doing. I am keen to explore if it might be possible that we could 'build a bridge' to get Talking Stickers to the Haitian children you are trying to benefit. Best of luck with your proposal! Best, Brian

Photo of Nicole
Team

Hi Brian,
Thank you very much for your feedback! We appreciate it. I just reviewed your Talking Stickers proposal, and it sounds incredibly exciting, especially the scalability of it.

Helping kids out of collection and into education is a core component of our program, as is setting parents and children up for long-term success. We have seen the value of being multi-lingual in Haiti, since it opens a world of new employment opportunities. We would love to explore how we might be able to offer Talking Stickers to the families in the First Mile Coalition. Step one for us would be to understand cell phone access among the kids and families we work with. I hope we can continue this conversation, and I wish you luck with your proposal as well!
Nicole

Photo of Brian Bauer of Attollo's Talking Stickers
Team

Hi Nicole, thanks a lot for the kind words and interest in Talking Stickers. I briefly spoke to my team and told him about your interest, they are very interested in the work Thread International is doing. We are keen to use TS with any children who can benefit from TS, but we are especially interested in projects where there is exceptionally high social impact potential. We see the work you are doing as exceptionally impressive and impactful so we are keen to see how we might be able to integrate TS into your project. Hopefully/ideally a pilot with you could be catalyzed with funds from this Bridge Building Challenge, if not, we would likely consider looking for funds from other sources for future collaboration.
To address your question about smartphones, we would likely use grant funds to subsidize the cost of smartphones, especially for users with extremely low incomes like your beneficiaries in Haiti. In Chile, where most Haitian's are likely earning at least $400 per month, this subsidy on cellphones might not be critical, but it is an issue we are carefully evaluating. If we are shortlisted, we will be reaching out to some TELCOs to see if we can get special pricing on several hundred basic smartphones so we can lower costs/simplify our users getting a smartphone-I have some contacts at one of LATAM's largest Telcos, so this could help us secure lower cost smartphones.
I just wanted to get back to you quickly so you know we are very interested in exploring how/if we might be able to work with Thread International. I will discuss with my team if they think we should consider allocating some funds from this Bridge Builder Challenge to pilot TS with you and formally consider you a partner for this BridgeBuilder Challenge-maybe you could do the same. If there is a strong interest in collaborating with TS, I can get our CEO on a call and we can have a discussion to hopefully turn this idea into something more tangible.
Best of luck to you and your proposal!
Cheers, Brian