Influencers Debrah and Mitchell from Limpi Recycling
Interview December 2021
Creative, innovative and enthusiastic
Could you share with us some information about your family life?
Debrah: I was born and raised in Curaçao and both my parents were born in Curaçao. My father was an entrepreneur owner of Nijpro and he started small and build it up to what it is now and it fits into what we are doing now.
Mitchell: I was born in Holland and raised in Rotterdam. My father was the manager of Ski-berg (snowboarding on plastic mats) and my mother has worked in the hospitality business. I learned to ski at Ski-berg and after working different jobs starting as a dishwasher, I became a Ski-teacher and kite surfing teacher.
Debrah: Our parents were and still are very creative and my father loves to restore old cars as a hobby. My mother loves painting and my aunt owns GN-Art in Bonaire. I have one older sister.
Mitchell: I have one younger brother.
Could you share something about your educational background and your experience?
Debrah: Both of us have studied Industrial Product Design at the Hogeschool in Rotterdam and it is where we met each other. After high school in Curaçao, I was unsure of what to do next, so I did a test to see what study would be interesting for me and when I got to know more about this study, especially because it was a very practical study, I decided to go for it. This study was a perfect fit for me as my next step. Both of us are very practical-oriented persons.
We learned how to design products, we studied about the different types of plastic, how plastic causes damage to the earth, we were taught different plastic production techniques, we were taught how to approach and solve problems and this combination of things we learned, were very helpful to what we do now.
We know you to be involved in “Limpi” or is it “Limpi recycling” and I assume it consists of different projects and products in Curaçao aimed at implementing a circular economy. Can you expand a little on these projects, the what they are, the why, the how, and how else is involved in your collaborations?
We use both, Limpi and in the Chamber of Commerce we are registered under the name Limpi Recycling. We use Limpi Recycling as domain-name and social media.
We do so many things, we are the first ones that can offer a circular economy based on plastic, we are the first ones that make something new like customized products that are produced locally, we produce our souvenirs, we produce customized merchandise like company awards. All of this is designed by us and made out of locally collected plastic. We have sufficient plastic for the moment to offer our products.
“We offer a circular economy based on plastic…”
We do the whole process of collecting, cleaning, shredding the plastic, assembling, designing, producing, and delivering our products, all by ourselves. We develop our molds with our machines. We teach by example and we also offer workshops, presentations, like this week we had some 23 very enthusiastic students from schools visiting our premises.
Do you have other projects that you are involved in under any other “brand”?
We have three different Limpi lines, that we sell through different outlets.
We have our self-designed Limpi souvenirs (Limpi Products), we also offer custom products that others can use to make hangers, key chains, clips for towels for the beach (custom products). And we offer plastic sheets that others can use to make furniture, awards, and trash cans (sheet products). We focus on the local market and we focus on import substitution, as we want to recycle local plastic. With regard to import substitution, we do aim to make the import of for example reclining chairs in Curaçao in containers obsolete, as we can offer it locally.
But we do export our concept. We have a collaboration with a foundation in Bonaire, where we make the design and the production of what we create, is done on location in Bonaire. This is only a very small part of our overall business.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
As we were studying, we were taught and became more aware of the dangers are of the use of plastic. And as I was considering what to do after my study, either come back to Curaçao and do something creative or stay in Holland, as I was visiting Curaçao during our vacations, I became aware of how much plastic I could see as I was driving by and also noticed how much plastic was washing up on our shores. This raised the question of why not start a business in Curaçao using all the knowledge we gathered during our studies. So we decided to start in Curaçao for three months with constructing the first machines and started making new products. As we started, we never stopped and never looked back. We got so many positive reactions and that also motivated us very much. So as plastic is a big challenge in the whole world, we were very motivated to do something about it. We started to look at plastic not as garbage, but as a valuable asset that can be used to make valuable products and in that process help address this global challenge. While at the same time using our creativity to make valuable products, all this evolved and it became our Big Why.
What are your plans for the coming years and when do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
Within 5 years we would have a big warehouse, where we would sell our big impact products, based on import substitution strategy of certain products on the islands. We would have a bigger team. Plastic would not have to go anymore to the landfill, but us, so that we can recycle it into valuable products. That we would be involved in constantly developing of new machines and the more interesting we make the recycling the more plastic we would need, the better it would be for the whole world.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
We have different challenges like we live on an island and if you want to build a machine, the different parts will have to be flown in from elsewhere in the world, which affects the costs. We are doing everything up to now with the two of us and we make most of the things ourselves. We have no sales organization for the products we sell, no organization coaching us nor financing us. We aim to make our products as inexpensive as possible as customers require this. For our business model, the market of Curaçao is still small, hampering the possibility for mass production. We aim to export more souvenirs to tourists that take this along with them. As a small company, we have a lot of plastic and a lot of machines, thus we need more affordable space. The bigger we make our machines the more energy is required, which also affects the bottom line. Although we have enough plastic available it is a challenge to clean it up. And if we want to work with different types of plastic, the challenge is that you then require more storage places to store it. This requires us to be very creative in solving problems and that is what we do to deal with these challenges.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
Through our studies and education, we have been taught how to deal with problems. We google a lot when we are confronted with a challenge, to see how others elsewhere in the world have solved this issue. If we can’t find it on the internet, it boils down to figuring this out ourselves. Start small and simple and improve this continuously. During this process we get solutions or else we can’t move on.
How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skills levels?
We search the internet and YouTube a lot. Or we start something and test it, and document every step. And that is how we learn by doing and drawing down the lessons learned.
What are your strengths?
Debrah: I am very organized and I love the details and have a strong sense of assessing how realistic an idea can be.
Mitchell: I am very enthusiastic and passionate about making a process as efficient as possible when we are building new machines. As I dream about bigger and better machines Debrah helps me keep my two feet on the ground. So we are an excellent team together since we were both studying and doing projects together and getting high grades together.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Debrah: I love adventure, going out, I like fishing and wakeboarding.
Mitchell: I love kite-surfing, I like being on the water.
I like to do odd jobs around the house, I like to discover things to make them function better. When I was young I would dismantle devices and then they would not work any longer, nowadays it is the other way around, I dismantle devices that need repairing and they work afterward.
If you as Debrah or Mitchell would meet a stranger on the bus (let say in New York or Bogota Columbia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
As we are proud of what we achieved until now, I would say: We are pioneers of a circular economy on an island where we created our machines to create our products with clean plastic.
How would you describe Debrah or Mitchell in one word or one sentence?
Creative, innovative, and enthusiastic.
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Debrah: Both our parents for their accomplishments and their lifestyle.
What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
In any process, it can always be improved. We can make it faster and more beautiful. We are very innovative and we always strive to progress. So this trait will always be there, “work in progress”.
What was a defining moment in your life?
Debrah: Our study has determined who we are at this moment. We met each other during our study, that was a defining moment for me.
Mitchell: When I started at the beach as a kite instructor, this opened my eyes. Being around, working, and taking care of ourselves with colleagues for a whole season long. Learning how to interact and deal with different kinds of people and offering presentations to groups of people and also our study was defining moments in my life.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now with your career?
We want to be less in the operations of the business. Still being leading in the whole business but Limpi would be able to function on its own without us being hands-on all over the place. That we would have spread the concept all over the Caribbean Basin, where more islands would be using plastic to create new products of value.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
That we have been impactful for the whole world regarding plastic. That we have done this with lots of zest and that we would continue doing this with lots of pleasure. That we are entertaining and adventurous.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession, and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
It is a small island with a lot of opportunities. Because of its small scale, it is easier to bring about major real changes if you compare Curaçao with Holland for example. We are running behind in different things so it offers the opportunity to in a nice creative way to pick up the opportunities that there are.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Debrah Nijdam and Mitchell Lammering from “Limpi Recycling” are a creative, innovative, fun-loving adventurous and enthusiastic entrepreneurial couple. Finding a niche and using their creativity, talents and abilities they honed during their study at Hogeschool in Rotterdam, they use plastic as a valuable asset. They design products, know different types of plastic, use different plastic production techniques, know how to approach and solve problems while building their machines. They are the first ones that can offer a circular economy based on plastic, the first ones that make something new like customized products that are produced locally, they produce souvenirs, customized merchandise like company awards all designed by themselves and made out of locally collected plastic.
They switched their paradigm on plastic by not per sé seeing it as garbage, but as a valuable asset that can be used to make valuable products and in that process helping to address the global challenges surrounding plastic.
For all this and because of their Caribbean ambition to spread their concept all over the Caribbean Basin, where more islands would be using plastic to create new products of value, we deeply love and respect Debrah and Mitchell from “Limpi Recycling”. We therefore consider them one of the 250 influencers of the islands representing the industrial sustainable sector as part of the circular economy. Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now.