Turning Plastic into Visions- Merijaan
Updated: May 14
Last week we had the joy of virtually meeting Gianna and Isabella from Merijaan.
Merijaan is an organisation that we were supposed to visit and partner with during our time in Sri Lanka. Despite this being not possible, we still wanted to share their message- and especially as they are a prime example of an initiative that has managed to keep their initial aims constant but adapt their current output to contribute to the fight against the Coronavirus.
Let's meet Gianna and Isabella and hear more about what Merijaan is all about:
Neither Gianna nor Isabella has a formal background in environmental studies, instead, it has been their passion for a cleaner environment that has brought them this far.
For Gianna, it started with an exchange trip to India, followed by a hop over to Sri Lanka where she met their local project partner. She had a background in industrial engineering and international entrepreneurship and used those skills to help kick-start Merijaan.
Grew up in Lima, Peru, Isabella saw the abundance of plastic waste on the pacific coast. After coming to Germany to study, she met Gianna and since then they have been working together. It started out by working remotely, but since their joint visit to Sri Lanka, they have embarked on this project together.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
2020 started out with Merijaan implementing their pilot project which right from the offset, showed the successful potential. The locals from the Kalpitiya community started bringing in plastic that Merijaan would then turn into various products, they set up education programs and run various product tests. They set up collaborations with local shops and stores that they would be supplying their products to and continued to explore and develop their local product ranges, based on what they saw worked within that specific context. Merijaan has not only been focussing on the tourism industry but also wants to make products that have a direct benefit to the locals:
Just went things were going so well, and they were expecting an engineer from Plasticpreneur (an Austrian company that made the machinery and technology that Merijaan is using) to give a few workshops on the equipment, Corona came upon us. With it came a lockdown in Sri Lanka, and sadly also a suspension of the Merijaan project.
Despite being unable to execute its mission in Sri Lanka, Merijaan has certainly not abandoned ship. About 2 weeks after Gianna and Isabella had left Sri Lanka, with the help of Plasticpreneur designed equipment and moulds, they started making face shields out of recycled plastics. Just because we are in a global pandemic, it doesn't mean that the plastic problem has subsided. Let's hear what the ladies have to say about the plastic situation during Corona times:
A FEW FACESHIELD FACTS
A Food and Beverage Company located in Celle, Germany, donates the offcuts and excess pieces of plastic that can’t be used by them. They pelletise them and that is what Merijaan uses to make the head fasteners for the face shields.
About 35g of recycled plastic are used per fastener.
The transparent shield is also made out of 80-90% recycled PET foil.
It takes up to 30 minutes to make a face shield from start to finish.
The face shields are made with a simple 4 part process:
Mould the head fastener --- cut the PET foil for the shield -- Assemble -- package
Interested in buying a face shield? Check them out here: https://merijaan.de/shop/
While these face shields are suitable for anyone, Merijaan specifically targets individuals who struggle to wear a mask. These are specifically individuals from the Deaf community who are unable to lip read with masks on, or individuals wearing hearing aids who find masks uncomfortable. A very niche and yet very important target audience that unfortunately often gets neglected. Not only is it fantastic that Merijaan managed to adapt their products to have a positive impact during these times, they have also really felt a sense of community. Individuals who used to be part of their team have come back and offered their advice, skills and expertise.
Daily life may be under lockdown, but building up one another by supporting individuals, start-ups and enterprises with your experience is certainly not. We could perhaps all make use of any extra time we may have to reach out to people and support those that matter to truly uproot this global sense of community.