Life Jacket Graveyard Given New Life
In the city of Lesvos, Greece up to 1,000 people walk an hour a day to get to the One Happy Family Community Center. The center offers tea, ideas, and a way to escape the harsh realities of a refugee camp that is overcrowded by an estimated 7,000 people. But with each passing day, they are met with a chilling reminder of winter. Field Ready’s Georg Hoehne was volunteering in the makerspace within the community center to help turn the “life vest graveyard” into insulation for the camp’s refugees.
Starting in November the winter temperatures in Lesvos will reach only a high of 14.4° C (58°F) during the day, then fall at night to around 7.7°C (46 °F) until February. And in some other areas, heavy snowfall on the islands brings further freezing temperatures. Given that some refugees sleep directly on the ground or in thinly built shelters originally made for the warmer Mediterranean months the added insulation would provide an invaluable defense against the cold.
Through trial and error, Georg built prototypes that pieced together excess materials that can be found on the island. The current method takes the emergency life jacket foam and turns it into sheets that are wrapped with heat-reflective Mylar blankets. They are then wrapped one final time with garbage bags and are fused together using a hot air gun. Helping to make the insulation both water and wind-resistant. Each mat takes 2 to 3 hours to make and costs roughly €1. During his time there, they distributed 20 insulation mats that have been made with the help of volunteers and refugees themselves.
At the time Georg was given life jackets to use by an outside source as individuals have been forbidden from removing them from the nearest mountain. However, back in fall fines were issued to Mayor Spyros Galinos by the central government for environmental pollution; and will continue every week the mound sits untouched. The Mayor is now considering working with organizations to find a way to help remove them. Providing the first sign of relief to a growing ecological disaster.
Although the mountain of life jackets have become a stark reminder of what awaits refugees once they reach ashore, Georg aimed to further up-cycle the life vest material by turning them into sleeping bags and improving upon the current design of the insulation mats. Giving the life jackets a second use for the refugees.