A company run by Junior Achievement students has found a way to cut down on the number of used tires that end up in the George Town landfill by recycling them into colorful pet beds and eye-catching plant holders.
“When we think about it, ‘Mount Trashmore’ has a lot of tires,” said Sharon Roy, marketing vice president of the Junior Achievement Re-Tyre company. “These tires can cause massive fires, so we thought that using them to make pet beds and plant holders would be a clever way to recycle.”
Sharon said team member Aleigha General came up with the idea. Scrolling through Pinterest, a popular pinboard-style social sharing website, Aleigha came across some cute dog beds made from car tires. She thought they were a cool way to show how they cared about the environment and animals.
For students, recycling is an easy and popular way of being environmentally friendly.
Company president Martina Watler hopes the endeavor will continue and became a full-fledged company.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to die,” she said.
Unfortunately, she said, many Junior Achievement companies do not continue to becoming an actual business because schoolwork takes priority for students.
Team member Samruddhi Tagalpallewar said she was thinking of patenting the idea and expanding.
“We have some strategies already in place, such as our Instagram page and Facebook, but I plan to get more people onboard with the idea,” she said.
Samruddhi said she wants to help build the initiative of recycling in Cayman.
“It’s more about building an awareness,” Martina added. “Cayman is such a small island, if we don’t protect our island from such things as small fires, it could grow up to be a bigger problem.”
She said the least they could do as youngsters and teenagers was to spread the word, and to tell people to pick up tires and use them in a different way than just dumping them in the landfill.
The pet beds have proven to be a big seller, according to Martina. Every time they go to weekend markets, customers encourage them to keep going.
“This is a source of encouragement for use and we love it when customers approach us in that positive vibe and our product makes them happy,” Martina said.
She said Junior Achievement has given them many opportunities, and hopefully the next generation will be able to adapt those ideas and learn how to build new skills.
“Sometimes it’s good for us as a learning process and we do love it; it’s a very enjoyable thing to do and hopefully when we are older, we will learn how to become better entrepreneurs,” Martina said.
Thirteen students are involved in the recycling program, representing John Gray, Clifton Hunter, Cayman Prep, St. Ignatius and the University College of the Cayman Islands.
“Being a part of Junior Achievement has been a great experience for them and for me,” said Joann West, from sponsor Cayman Airways. “Volunteering through Junior Achievement with students for the past five years is so rewarding. I always say, if I can make a difference in one child’s life, then I have done my job. I truly love it.”
Ms. West said every year the team at Cayman Airways encourages the students to find a product that is eco-friendly.
“We encourage them to recycle and to find selling products that meet the needs and wants [of] our society without harming the environment,” Ms. West said.
Aleigha said they were thankful for the advice of Ms. West.
“She helped us set up sale, set up the company to run more efficiently, and we would not have done it without her,” Aleigha said.
The students clean, wash, paint and design the tires themselves. The tire beds are made from recycled pillows, stuffing and blankets, and closed tightly with hot glue.
“We spray the tires outside, and a base coat is added,” Martina said.
When the paint is dried, the designs are put on. These range from palms and sunny beaches to flowers, names and glittery markings. The entire process takes three days. According to Martina, the company has completed 61 tires, excluding custom orders. Students are not allowed to sell their product for more than $25 under the laws and policy of Junior Achievement.
Ten percent of the profit goes to the Humane Society, the company’s charity of choice. Students also volunteer their services to the Humane Society on weekends.
Junior Achievement is an organization dedicated to educating students aged 15-18 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.
Students develops the skills they need to experience the realities and opportunities of work and entrepreneurship. Junior Achievement advisers encourage the students to come up with their own ideas – often recommending something eco-friendly – during the 18-week program.
At the end of the program, a “Salesperson of the Year” award goes to the company that sells the most products.