[Interview] Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda Launches Legit Recycling Program In Haiti

Photo: (Getty)

From working to Power The World to planting over one million trees, the boys of Linkin Park are always up to something good. Now band member Mike Shinoda and two friends from Direct Relief International have teamed up to create Sustainable Recycling Solutions — an organization that pays the people of Haiti to collect plastic from the streets, stimulating both the economy and the environment.

In just a year, SRS has become one of the largest employers in the country and its employees have collected over 3 million pounds of plastic! They have also helped Haitians collect $400,000 from recycling, furthering to help the country’s economy. So awesome, right? We recently spoke to Mike about his involvement with SRS, and why it means so much to him.

MTV ACT: What inspired the creation of SRS, and the use of a business rather than a non-profit model?

MIKE SHINODA: After working with Music For Relief and Direct Relief International with the earthquake in Haiti, it was obvious to us that plastic trash has been an enduring problem there. We’re talking about garbage everywhere, millions of pounds of it. There are blocked up waterways filled with plastic trash that are breeding grounds for insects, that in turn are carrying disease. So we started a recycling program in Port Au Prince. Originally, we had thought about making it not-for-profit, but experience told us that the people wanted to feel like they’re earning a living, not taking a hand out. When we pay someone for the plastic they bring in, there is a sense of pride about doing good work, cleaning up the community, and earning money; and since the average income there is so low, this type of work can make a big difference for a person.

One of the many canals in Haiti filled with plastic. (SRS Haiti)

ACT: Are you thinking of bringing SRS to other developing nations without recycling programs? 

MIKE SHINODA: I started SRS with two friends, Andrew MacCalla and Brett Williams, who have a great deal of experience in the region, and nearly all our team there is Haitian. We have plans to expand in Haiti, and further-off plans outside the country, where there is need and opportunity.

ACT: How does it feel to be simultaneously improving people’s lives and improving the environment?  

MIKE SHINODA: This year, we collected 3 million pounds of plastic — over 60 million bottles — and have been selected as the United Nations Development Programme’s partner in collection for the region.  This is the first time I’ve spoken about my involvement; I wanted to grow it organically at first, and work out the kinks before I personally brought SRS any attention. Now, we’re at a point where we have results, and I can tell people definitively that this project is working. We need to spread the word to help it grow.

Whoa. In one year SRS Haiti has collected 3 million pounds of plastic — over 60 million bottles! (SRS Haiti)

ACT: What has been the most beneficial part of your involvement with SRS?

MIKE SHINODA: The excitement and positivity from the people of Haiti. Weeks after we opened up, there were people carpooling with bags of bottles, and people who would drive all over picking up other people’s plastic and transporting it to us. We’ve heard stories about saving money for school, paying for hospital bills, and cleaning up their neighborhood. It’s been a heartwarming experience.

ACT: How can people best get involved with SRS?

MIKE SHINODA: Right now, it’s about two groups of people: Haitians who want to earn honest money collecting plastic, and partners who are interested in working with us. For the former, Haitian plastic collectors can visit our location in Port Au Prince, and they will receive money for their plastic. For the latter, get in touch with SRS — we’re working to find the best partners to turn the plastic into useful, responsible new products. And for anyone who just wants to enjoy some images of good people earning a living and cleaning up their home, check Sustainable Recycling Solutions on Facebook or Flickr.

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