„Mai Bine” Association Contact person: Anca Elena Gheorghica (Project Manager), Phone: 40 755 225 267 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE: Iasi County, Romania WHEN: 2015- present (ongoing) WASTE MANAGEMENT HIERARCHY: Preparing for reuse, Recycling: Reuse – Reprocessing TYPE OF INSTRUMENT: Voluntary / promotional, Education, information, awareness raising WASTE STREAMS: Textiles
About: REDU is a project developed by „Mai Bine” Association, an NGO with more than 7 years experience in environmental protection activities as a social enterprise, aiming to transform waste into resources in a creative and educational way. It was launched in Iasi as a pioneering project at a national level in the field of slow fashion, social economy and green entrepreneurship. In the first two years of its activity, REDU has become a strong initiative for recycling/reusing textiles from consumers and not only and for raising awareness among consumers.
The enterprise integrates in its mission the 3 dimensions of sustainable development: the environment, society and the economy, proving that the relationships between them can be harmonized and governed by solid principles, so that they can contribute to creating a community that is environmentally sustainable, socially fair and facilitates ethical trade.
- Knowhow: the association with Lisbeth Lovbak Berg (Norwegian designer) contributed both to project image and development (consultancy, direct guidance, coordination received and inspiration in building sustainable practical solutions to the social problems linked to fashion/textile industry).
- Funding; budget: the project was supported in 2015-2016 from the Norwegian Grants 2009-2014, within the scope of the Green Innovation Funding in the Romanian Industry.
- Budget: 167.881 EUR
- Norway Grant: 150.000 EUR
- Material resources:
- Collection room located at the association premises (where the waste is sorted, cleaned and arranged by categories)
- Collection boxes in 10 textile collection centers
- Textile waste – recovered materials donated by the local community or collected from workshops and factories or sustainable materials purchased from local suppliers. In REDU workshops, clothes are being refurbished, the life of textiles is prolonged, and new products are created from materials that would otherwise be discarded and increase the negative impact on environment.
- Human resources: 8 green jobs (the REDU project team) and 24 volunteers (totalizing over 2000 volunteering hours)
REDU involved more than 1.500 people who donated materials and participated to public events such as solidarity bazaars, creative workshops, convivial events, or film screenings that were organized to raise awareness of the hidden cost of fashion industry, encouraging the population towards a responsible consumption and expressing their solidarity in the community.
- 3207 kg of pre-consumer and post-consumer textile waste have been collected (87% post-consumer waste and 13% pre-consumer waste).
- Apart from the 2730 kg donated, 244 kg were reconditioned and recycled into products with a new life and 99 kg were used as raw material for new redesigned and upcycled products.
- Out of the 3 tons of materials collected through the 10 collection centers in Iasi, 1000 new articles were produced and more than 500 customers have been counted.
- About 900 people and 90 vulnerable people (mostly homeless or persons under the poverty line) benefitted by donations of over 2 tons collected products. Donations consisted in clothes, accessories, blankets and other useful things.
- As a result of project activities, 4 categories of green products have been created in the workshop and are advertised under the online shop at www.redu.org.ro:
1. Repurposed/Upcycled – it is about those products that have been created out of old textiles and old clothes that cannot be reused: reusable bags made from men’s shirts, wall organized made from blue jeans, reusable sandwiches packaging, kitchenware (aprons, mats for hot dishes, gloves, bicycle cobs, women bags or waist bags, Christmas decorations, accessories and other, totaling a number of 1018 new useful upcycled products).
2. Re-designed – represents the leftovers of materials collected from local factories which are being used for creation of new pieces of clothing through redesign. Three redesigned collections have been created during the first year with the coordination of Norwegian designer Lisbeth Lovbak Berg, totaling 120 pieces of redesigned clothes from pre-consumer waste.
3. Re-used – most of the part of the products collected is being further donated to disadvantaged people and the best products are being cleaned, repaired if needed and reconditioned and sold in the concept store as second hand products.
Recycled – inspired by a grassroots organization from Norway – FREDENSBORGER – that fundraised over 100.000 EUR for projects in Sub Saharan Africa by selling recycled T-shirts, under REDU project, there have been recycled old T-shirts collected, by re-branding them with new messages through print screening.
The above results correspond to the first 18 months of operation of the project. After finishing the grant (Norway Grant), starting with April 31, 2016, the project is self-sustaining.
Urban metabolism relevance
„Mai Bine” Association aims to contribute to the sustainable development of the community by implementing projects like REDU under a holistic approach across all 3 dimensions of sustainable development: the natural environment, the social environment and the economic environment.
Reusing materials instead of using virgin materials is decreasing substantially (a factor of about 30 fold less) the impact on the environment on many stances: energy & water needs, transportation, use of chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, deployment of fossil fuels.
REDU project aims to develop a circular economy – collecting and reducing the amount of textile waste by turning it into products with a positive impact on the environment and the community.
Each ton of reusable textile material reduces the emission of 20 tons of CO2. Thus, REDU prevented the removal of 60 tons of CO2, which would be absorbed in one year by a forest with 75.000 trees.
REDU is the second social enterprise commonly owned by the members of “Mai Bine” Association (after CUIB, a pioneering bistro that aims at providing alternatives for sustainable consumption of food). Their interest in developing such economic activities lies in the recognition of the fact that, in order to build societal trust and to determine behavioral change, it is needed to have a proactive attitude rather than a reactive one as well as to be able to prove that economic activities development is possible with a triple perspective approach – people, planet, profit.
Engaged participatory processe
The main partners of the project are L-L-B (Lisbeth Lovbak Berg), a reference in slow fashion and a top ten Norwegian designer and Municipality of Iasi.
REDU received a significant support from the 24 volunteers involved in the project totalizing over 2000 volunteering hours. The implementation of different project activities would have been much harder without their contribution, both in the workshop (for sorting, cutting or ironing the fabrics) and in the collection centre (cleaning, arrangement and distribution of items collected or during public events).
Their constant involvement proves the local interest on community projects and reflects the potential that can be development through civic engagement of individuals.
Successful volunteering activities are win-win experiences, the benefits being experienced by the helpers as well, through the learning opportunities they receive, the cohesion among members it generates, as well as through the development of the feeling of community belonging.
The practice uses original or resourceful techniques:
– technological (product / process)
– organisational (for example, based on the cooperation of various departments, with new stakeholders …)
– social (based on new types of engagement, with a clear social focus / impact)
– economic (derived from new types of business models and approaches)
„Mai Bine” Association was one of first local organizations to raise awareness in the community regarding the common shared responsibility and the potential to reverse unsustainable development by providing alternative sustainable solutions, through projects like REDU.
REDU is the first social enterprise in Romania that produces new textile products and donated accessories, but also from textile scraps offered by local factories and workshops. It is also the first initiative in Iasi to collect old and used materials from the community for the purpose of their reuse.
Sustainability & Replicability
Using what others consider trash as a raw material is the best approach people can have now as an alternative for decreasing the
environmental impact of textile and fashion industry in any region across the country, Europe and world.
Sustainability and replicability came from the few simple steps each citizen can follow to achieve a responsible consumption:
• Refuse to encourage the fast-fashion industry that puts pressure not only on the textile factory workers but also on the environment, due to the chaotic consumerism that produces huge amounts of waste, which later is landfilled. It is known that the fashion industry encourages consumers to be updated all the time, following the latest trends and generating false needs that seem to be satisfied only by impulsive shopping.
• Reduce consumption – use only what really brings personal benefits and only what is wearable for a longer period of time. The first condition of buying a new garment is to ask oneself whether he/she wears it at least 35 times.
• Reuse – customize the clothing pieces, repair them.
• Recycle – get informed about recycling centers available in the neighborhoods.
„Mai Bine” Association owns a physical shop, a creation studio and a textile waste collection center in Iasi. However, for the REDU project continuation and development, it is necessary to involve the community by donating clothes, accessories and other textiles.
The project was successful, as results show. The main success factors were based on the community engagement, the social benefits targeted and the good history of organization in green and social projects, which are:
– Ecology and Environment protection: Waterless plastic, Urban Gardens, Iasi recycles, Seven hills on two wheels, Collecting batteries
– Social Economy: Fair trade, Solidary Bazaar (shop), REDU (”Reduce”), CUIB (Urban Center for Good Initiatives)
– Education and Sustainable Development: Climate change, Iaşi recycles
– Civic Responsibility: Make Fruit Fair, Give, Civic art workshop, Neighbourhood for people.
REDU project was initiated because of a strong need to create an alternative to the traditional consumption in the way that the fast fashion industry is continuously suffocating the local market and the working conditions are not favorable at all.
The main driving forces are: ecology and environmental protection, social economy, education and sustainable development and civic empowerment.
As a social business, the revenue earned will never be used for the founders’ personal purposes, but will be invested in developing the idea that works for a common cause: reducing textile waste that negatively impacts the environment.
- The textile industry generates big amounts of waste which is toxic for the environment and for people and which is the second pollution factor after the oil industry.
People are urged to support slow fashion companies, buy less and smarter, opt for durable, environment-friendly and durable products.