Woman looks as a 3D printer prints using yellow plastic

A new normal: How World Vision is tackling a global plastic crisis


During my early teenage years, I wondered about the values of the adult world – values which allowed people to accept the normality of trashing our beautiful countryside with litter. Much of this was non-biodegradable plastic. At the time, I never fully grasped the devastating cumulative effect of this behaviour on a global scale.

Today, news reports reveal plastic-choked streams, debris strewn across kilometres of open sea and plastic filling and sometimes perforating the stomachs of birds and sea life. It seems that this form of collective madness has overtaken us – a behaviour akin to insanity – because, ultimately, by damaging the environment, this behaviour is self-destructive. 

Girl sifting through plastic waste
Our plastic habits are destroying the environment.

We are living in a time where there will soon be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Yet we continue to act in the same irresponsible ways. We’ve got a long way to go to save the planet. But around the world, World Vision, generous donors and community members are all helping to make a big impact on the global garbage crisis.

Indonesia, for example, produces more than 64 million tons of waste annually. Jakarta, the capital city, produces more than 7,000 tons of rubbish per day. There is simply not enough space nor trucks to collect it. But through the Waste Bank, developed by World Vision, community members can collect rubbish and turn it into money, their balance recorded via a phone app. This is a huge advantage to vulnerable families living below the poverty line, and has a positive impact on the environment too.

A finger presses the cellphone screen
World Vision's Waste Bank app helps vulnerable people trade in plastic rubbish for money.

With support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), World Vision has partnered with Azure Pure Water and the Pango Green Force in Vanuatu to establish a program that turns plastic waste into cash.

The ANCP-funded Waste Not Want Not program is officially opened at a ceremony in Vanuatu.
The ANCP-funded Waste Not Want Not programme is officially opened at a ceremony in Vanuatu.

Through the Waste Not Want Not project, local community members turn trash into pieces of art and other homemade goods. They then sell their work along with freshly grown fruits and vegetables at local stalls to produce more income and lift themselves out of poverty. 

In Nepal, innovative ideas for a greener future are being generated from the hills of the Kathmandu Valley at World Vision’s Innovation Lab. One of these innovations includes the advanced technology of 3D printers. Pending research analysis, locals will be able to reuse plastic water bottles to print pipe fittings and even medical tools for remote areas.

World Vision Nepal's Innovation Lab develops solutions for a greener future.
World Vision Nepal's Innovation Lab develops solutions for a greener future.

The devastating 2015 earthquakes in Nepal left many homes and water systems damaged. But now, communities are poised to use plastic waste to make spare parts and repair water pipes, and soon the technology could be used for scalpels, otoscopes and other vital tools during crises and emergencies. Polyfloss – a candyfloss-like material that can be used for building insulation and filler in concrete is another useful material that the innovation lab has developed from plastic waste.

Recycling is a positive step in the right direction, but ultimately, we need to challenge the use and abuse of single-use plastics. We need to refuse using certain plastics in the first place. We need to create a new normal.

Member of the Order of Australia and Right Livelihood Winner Tony Rinaudo is known as the “forest maker”. Having lived and worked in Africa for several decades, he has discovered and put in practice a solution to the extreme deforestation and desertification of the Sahel region. With a simple set of management practices, farmers regenerate and protect existing local vegetation, which has helped to improve the livelihoods of millions. He currently works with World Vision in Australia.