The situation in Peru was serious. The streets were covered in plastic waste. Agrofair, the importer of
organic fruit, decided to do something about it. “We must now prevent this initiative dying a slow
It is fantastic to import biological and Fairtrade certified bananas from Peru. However it looks
rather messy if the roads around the plantations are covered in plastic waste. Frank
Vermeersch, Customer Relations & Marcom Manager of the fruit importer AgroFair, agrees that
it was quite a mess: “It was about ten years ago when I first visited our plantations in Peru.
There was plastic everywhere; in the valleys, on the streets and on the plantations. This waste
has probably accumulated tremendously over the years.
It originated from the banana plantations, where farmers use plastic bags to protect the
banana bunches from insects, etc. And a huge quantity of plastic came from the people in the
villages. They just threw it out into the street. They had other things on their minds than
disposing properly of their waste. Their living conditions were such that their main priority was
to survive and get food and education.
What do you do as a Dutch company that aims to increase the sustainability of banana
production when you are faced with such a waste problem? AgroFair started discussing the
problem. Vermeersch: “You try engage the farmers in a dialogue. After all, you want them to
become aware of the problem. We have done this, for example, through meetings, videos and
conversations with the local mayor.” What you hope for is that ultimately something will be
done. That the problem is really addressed.
Vermeersch: “Just when we were starting to get a little pessimistic, it happened. On Facebook
we were inundated with photographs from the village of Querecotillo, where there are many
plantations. These photographs show the local people, including the mayor, engaged in
collecting plastic waste. A real cleanup project. This is when we realized that the people in
Peru were aware of the problem. And that they were eager to solve the problem.”
With the support of MVO Netherlands , AgroFair subsequently approached the consultancy firm
WASTE to see how the plastic waste could be recycled in Peru. This has resulted in a great
case. Vermeersch: “At the moment there are several waste collection points for the local
people to dispose of their plastic. Together with the plastic waste from the plantations, this
waste is taken to a local entrepreneur, who has a kind of small factory at a central collection
point. This is where he cuts and melts the plastic. This plastic then goes to the capital, Lima,
where it is processed into, for instance, garden hoses.
In this way this plastic waste finds a new life. ”However, this does not mean that AgroFair has
achieved its goal. Vermeersch: “Our biggest challenge is to now make sure that this initiative
does not lose momentum. We have to keep repeating the message, so that plastic waste is
collected and recycled in a structural manner.”