Making recycling fashionable in Kosovo

Closing the loop: an EU-funded project introduces a textile recycling concept in Kosovo

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In Kosovo it is very rare to come across bins for separated waste, and recycling is mainly carried out by individual rubbish-pickers who collect metal, cardboard and plastic waste from regular garbage bins, and sell it on. However, thanks to an NGO called Let’s Do It Peja, the collection of textile waste has taken off in Peja, a town in western Kosovo. Arba Shehu is a young and passionate environmental activist who along with her colleagues at the NGO have identified this problem early on, and decided to contribute to a solution. They launched the “Promoting circular economy as a sustainable model for social enterprise development – SEREC” project, which is funded by the EU. Now Arba is the manager of the project.

Arba explains that the idea for it came because of the volume of textile waste generated and because public institutions have failed to develop a sustainable waste collection and management system in Peja or elsewhere in Kosovo. According to her, most local waste ends up in legal and illegal landfills, the vast majority of which do not comply with basic environmental and health standards. “Although the legal framework is partially streamlined with that of the EU, waste remains one of the most significant problems in Kosovo,” says Arba.

 

“Although the legal framework is partially streamlined with that of the EU, waste remains one of the most significant problems in Kosovo.”

Arba Shehu, Project Manager, Let’s Do It Peja

Producing fashion from waste

The project started in January this year, with the NGO placing a textile collection point in the centre of the city. To the delight of the project team, local residents are responding to the call for sharing their textile waste through such collection points.

The project is based on the so-called “3R” (“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”) concept. However, apart from its environmental contribution, the project also has an economic angle as they have opened a second-hand shop to sell the donated textiles that are in good condition.

Arba believes that there can be no long-term impact if younger generations are not involved actively. Therefore, the education component of the project is seen as the most important one by her and her colleagues. In cooperation with the art high school in Peja, Let’s Do It Peja have launched an extracurricular design course where young students, mentored by experienced fashion designers hired by the project, work on designing and making new clothing using the collected textile waste. Arba explains that this is the most exciting part of the project for her: “The students are very passionate, and we have seen them come up with very interesting and attractive models.”

I am very grateful to be part of the EU-funded SEREC project. I am learning many new things and expanding my professional horizons with new knowledge about the fashion industry.”

 

Yllka Latifi, Student

Yllka Latifi is one of the students participating in the extracurricular course launched by the project. She says, “I am very grateful to be part of the EU-funded SEREC project. I am learning many new things and expanding my professional horizons with new knowledge about the fashion industry.”

The SEREC project aims to be self-sustaining and continue with the activities even after the EU funding ends. The Let’s Do It Peja NGO is currently working on registering and launching a social enterprise with the 3R concept and name. In this way they aim to ensure sustainability by turning this project into an enterprise with long-term economic and environmental benefit for the community.

The new social enterprise will aim to hire staff who will work on designing and sewing the recycled textiles as well as people to work in the second-hand shop. “In this way we aim to help people in need, as the new employees of the social enterprise will primarily come from vulnerable groups such as women, young people and minorities,” says Arba.

About the project

The EU-funded “Promoting circular economy as a sustainable model for social enterprise development – SEREC” project was launched in January and will end in December 2021. The overall goal of the project is to support the development of social enterprises in Kosovo and enhance the employment of disadvantaged groups, primarily women and youth, through the application of circular economy concepts.

Photo credits: SEREC

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