A project to collect thousands of bottle caps for a recycling company in exchange for wheelchairs for the disabled in Izmir, Turkey, soon spread to other countries.
By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 12/07/12
Korab Ahmeti (left), a student, started the initiative "caps for wheelchairs" in Pristina. Valon Osmani is a wheelchair recipient. [Safet Kabashaj/SETimes]
Kushtrim Ahmeti of Kosovo got the idea of collecting plastic bottle caps in exchange for wheelchairs in 2010 when he saw a mother carrying her disabled child to a medical centre in Izmir, Turkey, where his medical practice was located.
Ahmeti proposed a caps-for-wheelchairs project to an Izmir recycling company, Muzaffer Pınarbası Isletmeleri. After some initial reluctance, the company agreed, offering one chair for 250kg of recyclable material – about 60,000 bottle caps.
Ahmeti put boxes in the halls of Ege University in Izmir, with a note: "Put [bottle] caps here for wheelchairs." To his surprise, the boxes filled quickly.
"After we got wide support in Izmir, we were receiving huge amounts of caps. So we exceeded our goal of just one chair. We quickly managed to get 20 chairs."
In a short time, collecting bottle caps became a phenomenon, spreading beyond the borders of Turkey. In less than two years, 44 countries took part in the project, while almost 1,500 wheelchairs were distributed for the disabled, mostly in Turkey.
Mustafa Urgen, the manager of Pınarbası factory, told SETimes that the company is happy to be the project's partner and is committed to remaining involved to promote recycling and help for the disabled.
Somalia was the first foreign country to receive wheelchairs under the initiative. Collecting bottle caps is currently popular in Kosovo, with Korab, Ahmeti's brother, leading the project, himself a student at the American University of Kosovo, where he started the initiative.
The Turkish Embassy in Kosovo is one of his partners, transporting caps to Izmir, and this summer will ship the first contingent of 50 wheelchairs to Pristina.