Green Apple: Zero Glass Waste Cartagena, Winner of the Tahona Society Competition 2023
Inside Green Apple Project: Winner of the Tahona Society Competition 2023
About the Green Apple Winners
- 45 years old
- Happily married to a Colombian
- Has been working in hospitality in Colombia for five years
- Previously worked in marketing in the media industry in London and ran social impact projects in her spare time
- Took a year “off” to volunteer and travel through South America for her 40th birthday. Was not planning to go to Colombia, but found a volunteering program in Cartagena. Within a month of being in the city, she knew she wanted to stay and luckily found Green Apple just as the project was beginning. She has been there ever since and has never looked back!
- 35 years old
- Born in Venezuela, but he has been living in Colombia for seven years
- Had been in the hospitality industry for about eight years, starting in the hotel sector before falling in love with the world of bars
- Studied business administration, but quickly found out being in an office all day was not for him
- Mixology offers him the opportunity to learn about history, processes, ingredients, and his favorite part: connecting with people
- He’s working with Blue Apple and Townhouse for several years, and he contributes as much as he can, however he can, to the Green Apple Foundation.
The Birth of the Green Apple Project
Green Apple began when a small hotel call Blue Apple wanted to go zero waste, but found no initiatives in the city to recycle glass or to separate and redirect food waste – the two biggest waste streams for any hospitality business.
So, the owners of Blue Apple started to do it themselves. The word began to spread and soon other bars, hotels and restaurants wanted to join the effort.
The result is a social enterprise that now works with over 20 businesses to divert from landfills over eight tons of refuse each month, which in turn creates employment for 11 people.
It all began in Cartagena, where Blue Apple is based, and where there was a need. Now, the model is being replicated in some other nearby locations, and interest has come in from other cities in Colombia and from other parts of the world. This project can work anywhere there is tourism, a lack of infrastructure and a low living wage.
People Involved in the Green Apple Project and How Many are Benefiting
A four-person team runs the collection and recycling operation, and works with bars and beach clubs on zero waste consultancy projects, which includes training and assessment programs.
Six people work on the glassware transformation project, creating glasses, vases and lamps, from the workshop that’s based at the hotel at Blue Apple Beach. The team is supported by an accountant, as well as executive directors who donate their time to the project.
Green Apple team members are trained on the job. Not having a formal education is no obstacle because it’s the attitude that counts! Every person working at Green Apple has learned new skills while working, including how to solve problems through teamwork. They also share a collective pride for the profound changes they are making together.
One of the sources of pride for the team comes from their ability to train staff in bars, hotels, beach clubs and restaurants on how to go zero waste. They work hand-in-hand with staff in the hospitality industry to design systems and collections that work specifically for each place.
The process brings together diverse people to converse and create, sparking interesting ideas and initiatives. Everyone participating feels empowered and important to the positive changes being made. It’s not a chore - it’s a vocation. And the resulting cultural change is absolutely crucial for long-term impact. Businesses going to zero waste stand out against those that do not.
Recycling: A Very Difficult and Even Impossible Process in Cartagena
The infrastructure to separate and collect recyclable waste in Cartagena is often very informal and before the Green Apple project, there were no operations offering a service to businesses. All glass and food waste – everything – went to the nearby landfills, or to landfills in Barranquilla, a city two hours’ drive away. Because glass is heavy, glass crushing machinery is expensive and the price of sand is low, recycling was seen as a business concept that was not profitable nor necessary.
Green Apple: A Local Circular Economy Project
More than just a circular economy project, this is a local circular economy project. There’s a huge amount of glass waste generated in the city and the islands on a daily basis. Participants in Green Apple don’t want to send materials or products to another city or country; they want to reduce the amount of waste and the associated transport involved.
Helping to Reduce Their Environmental Impact and Create Job Opportunities
Green Apple helps other businesses to reduce their environmental impact, while creating opportunities locally. In practice, this means hospitality businesses are recycling locally, rather than sending that recycling to landfills, or sending recyclable waste to a vendor who will sell it internationally.
As well as collecting and recycling glass and food waste, Green Apple also runs zero waste programs. Green Apple’s first zero waste client was Blue Apple Hotel. After the COVID pandemic, everyone was starting from zero again – so, the perfect opportunity.