Project overview

Circular Food Assistance creates income-generation opportunities for refugees in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, the world's largest refugee settlement, by recycling food assistance packaging while mitigating the World Food Programme (WFP)'s environmental footprint.

The problem

With one million people, Cox's Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh produces hundreds of tons of solid waste monthly, including from humanitarian distributions.

Waste management remains a challenge in refugee camps. Much of the waste goes to landfills or is left in the open, affecting public health and the environment. Moreover, the household waste that ends up in the canals poses a significant threat of flood during the monsoon season.

At the same time, livelihood opportunities for women and people with disabilities are scarce in Rohingya refugee camps; and youth are often engaged in the informal waste management market, which affects their school attendance. 

Circular Food Assistance

The solution

Circular Food Assistance offers a formal waste management system within Cox's Bazar refugee camp.

Through turning waste into useful products, the project provides skills development and income opportunities for Rohingya youth, women and people with disabilities while helping to keep the camp environment clean. It trains and engages the local community in collecting, sorting and recycling cardboard and PET bottles and upcycling aluminium and plastic bags into new end-products.

Rohingya refugees have brainstormed, designed, and co-created user-friendly products from waste, such as wallets and different kinds of bags, bins, baskets, bracelets, floor mats, and pen holders.

The way forward

Throughout the WFP Sprint Programme, the Circular Food Assistance team aims to engage the Rohingya community in the co-creation, development and prototyping of new end-products made out of recycled food assistance wrappers, using a Human-Centered Design approach. The team found that these food assistance wrappers could be recycled, for example, into aluminium sheets.

Sales proceeds will be reinvested to support more livelihoods efforts while the process continues to be refined for further scale-up to other refugee camps.

Circular Food Assistance

Last updated: 08/12/2021