Algerian startup recycles discarded fabrics to create useable items

Jean genies: Algerian startup Atelier Le Printemps sells items made from discarded clothing and fabrics at bargain prices. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 December 2019

Algerian startup recycles discarded fabrics to create useable items

  • End products of recycling process include cushions, quilts and handbags
  • The north African country imported textiles worth $1.15bn in 2017 alone

BARCELONA, Spain: A green-thinking Algerian startup is doing its bit for the environment by turning discarded fabrics into high-quality goods.

Atelier Le Printemps sells products created by using only natural dyes and eco-friendly processes.

Along with expanding its production output, the company is also slowly but surely helping reduce the need for Algeria to import fabrics, which, in turn, will shrink the country’s carbon footprint.

According to data from the World Bank, Algeria imported $1.15 billion of textiles in 2017, of which $506 million came from China, more than 9,000 km away.

In contrast, Algeria’s textiles exports totaled a mere $4 million the same year. “We have created a green workshop that is part of the circular economy,” said Anis Ouazane, 32, who co-owns the company with his wife, Nardjes Mokhtari, 37.

The business was founded by Ouazane’s mother is 2004. However, it was a markedly different operation back in the day, doing repairs of old bedding, such as duvets and blankets.

Following the founder’s death, Mokhtari joined the company, which then switched to turning discarded fabric into new products such as dolls, bags, tablecloths, cushions and rugs.

“Nardjes has always been passionate about sewing, creating things and recovering textiles, but she was not predestined to work with me because she graduated in finance,” said Ouazane.

The company obtained a loan of 100,000 Algerian dinars ($837) from Angem, the government-run micro-finance agency. It also received backing from an NGO that supports for recycling projects.

Atelier Le Printemps is based in the Mediterranean port city of Bejaia, east of Algeria’s capital Algiers. It sells its products at bargain prices considering the craftsmanship that goes into their production. For example, dolls are priced at 2,000 dinars, bags at 1,000 dinars and tablecloths at 500 dinars.

Atelier Le Printemps sells also runs children’s workshops to explain its green production techniques. (Supplied)

Items are made from discarded clothing and fabrics, including denim jeans, cotton shirts, woollen jumpers, blankets and bedding.

These offcuts are typically collected from industrial garment makers and apparel shops. “By saving these items from being thrown away, we’re having an environmental impact because they otherwise could take 50 to 100 years to biodegrade,” said Ouazane.

The company’s equipment is low-tech, with the fabrics dyed in large saucepans heated over a kitchen stove before being hung out to dry on a simple garden washing line.

Next, they are cut to shape, and then Mokhtari and Ouazane work their magic with a sewing machine.

Although the equipment is basic, the results are extraordinary, as the tourist clientele and eco-conscious locals can testify.

The couple also screen-print their handmade designs onto bed covers. “We have been able to reach a customer base that is more and more interested in helping achieve a positive ecological outcome,” Ouazane said.

He highlighted the firm’s social impact in providing employment and boosting public awareness of the importance of reusing textiles.

Atelier Le Printemps, which has three employees, also holds children’s workshops to show youngsters the full process from collecting discarded clothes to turning them into entirely new items.

As well as utilizing offcuts from other clothing and industrial garment workshops, the company also reuses material left over from its own production.

“By improving waste collection to make it more efficient, this waste can be reused and other products, such as packaging, recycled,” Ouazane added.

“We’re taking steps to make our business more and more green — that’s everything from the collection of raw materials through to their processing in an environmentally friendly way.

“All through these processes, we seek to follow the core principles of eco-design.”

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. 

Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

Updated 06 July 2020

Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

  • Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time

TORONTO: Canada should focus on boosting economic growth after getting pummeled by the COVID-19 crisis, analysts say, even as concerns about the sustainability of its debt are growing, with Fitch downgrading the nation’s rating just over a week ago.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau will deliver a “fiscal snapshot” on Wednesday that will outline the current balance sheet and may give an idea of the money the government is setting aside for the future.

As the economy recovers, some fiscal support measures, which are expected to boost the budget deficit sharply, could be wound down and replaced by incentives meant to get people back to work and measures to boost economic growth, economists said.

“The only solution to these large deficits is growth, so we need a transition to a pro-growth agenda,” said Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. The IMF expects Canada’s economy to contract by 8.4 percent this year. Ottawa is already rolling out more than C$150 billion in direct economic aid, including payments to workers impacted by COVID-19.

Further stimulus measures could include a green growth strategy, as well as spending on infrastructure, including smart infrastructure, economists said. Smart infrastructure makes use of digital technology.

“We have to make sure that government spending is calibrated to the economy of the future rather than the economy of the past,” Wright said.

Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time, citing the billions of dollars in emergency aid Ottawa has spent to help bridge the downturn caused by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and DBRS still give Canadian debt the highest rating. At DBRS, Michael Heydt, the lead sovereign analyst on Canada, says his concern is about potential structural damage to the economy if the slowdown lingers too long.

Fiscal policymakers “need to be confident that there is a recovery underway before they start talking about (debt) consolidation,” Heydt said.

Fitch expects Canada’s total government debt will rise to 115.1 percent of GDP in 2020 from 88.3 percent in 2019.

Royce Mendes, a senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said the economy still needs more support.

“Turning too quickly toward austerity would be a clear mistake,” he said.