Red Cross, start-ups to recycle hurricane debris in St. Maarten

~ School meal programme extended ~

THE HAGUE–The Red Cross and the Start-up Solutions for St. Maarten initiative will initiate an innovative and sustainable way of recycling waste from Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten, it was announced on Monday.

  The Red Cross also announced an extension of the school meal programme. The Red Cross, with the aid of volunteers, has been supplying breakfast and lunch for some 4,000 children at schools since October last year. The project will be extended by three months through a contribution of the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK.

  The Ministry, through the Recovery Fund, is also financially contributing to an innovative project to tackle the waste management issue with the involvement of the Red Cross and Start-up Solutions for St. Maarten. The project will not only help with the reduction of waste accumulated during the clean-up and the recovery after the hurricane, but will create jobs as well.

  The amount of debris is expected to further increase with the demolition works that will be taking place during the recovery phase. This debris can be used to make new products. “We should not see the debris as a burden, but as an opportunity,” said Red Cross International Relief head Juriaan Lahr in a press release.

  Many tarpaulins will be removed from people’s roofs in the coming months as the home repair programme progresses. These tarpaulins can be used to make new products. Discarded plastic and metal can also be used to make new hurricane shutters.

  A construction site will be set up in the coming months where waste and building debris can be deposited. The location will house an area where entrepreneurs can develop and create new products using the recycled waste, as well as an outlet where the new products can be sold to the public. Both Dutch start-up initiatives and local entrepreneurs will be working on the site.

  The possibilities of the recycling of hurricane debris were researched in the past few months. More than 130 start-up companies have submitted ideas, which besides recycling of waste, also contribute to employment, housing, energy of economic security in St. Maarten. These ideas serve as a background for future plans at the construction site.

  Other relief projects of the Red Cross continue in the meantime. Besides the school meal programme, there is also assistance for the more vulnerable groups in society. Persons who are having trouble sustaining themselves have been receiving food vouchers for their purchases at local supermarkets.

  The Red Cross advises and assists vulnerable groups in society with repairs to their homes and to rebuild in a hurricane-proof manner. People receiving advice from the Red Cross are offered the construction materials necessary for the repairs.

  The Red Cross is looking at the potential of using so-called “block-chain,” a form of crypto currency technology. The system of a digital wallet enables victims of a disaster to purchase their own food, water and other relief supplies.

  The relief projects that have been started in St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma will serve as research material for the block-chain system. The Red Cross will assess in the coming year whether block-chain makes the assistance better and more effective. St. Maarten is deemed a useful place to research this system because the Red Cross is active here with a number of projects.

  The Red Cross Data Team 510 and developer announced the launch of the research during the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami last week Friday. The goal is to develop a system that can be deployed around the world in any kind of disaster and any local context, also in cash-based communities.

  With this system, the Red Cross would be able to speed up its assistance in disaster areas. In certain cases, the Red Cross opts to give disaster victims money so they can buy the things they need most urgently; for example, food and water. This eliminates the need for food packages, while at the same time stimulating the local economy and enhancing people’s resilience.

  The organisations will look into whether the use of block-chain technology can make the process of providing relief safer and more efficient. For example, the use of block-chain can prevent the transport of large sums of cash in disaster areas. This will make the situation safer for both the relief workers and the victims. At the same time, block-chain can result in lower overhead cost and a speedier assistance process.

Source: The Daily Herald