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92 Elmar Stroomer – transcript

Circular Economy Podcast Ep92 Elmar Stroomer Africa Collect Textiles

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Interview Transcript

Provided by AI – add ~3:35 mins for the finished episode

Catherine Weetman  00:03

Elmar, welcome to the circular economy podcast. Thank you. So I’m really interested to talk about the topic we’ve got today, to hear more about your business, Africa Collect Textiles, but also to understand more about the big problems with global fashion waste. So could we start by asking you to explain that a bit to us? I think people know that. The problem is sizeable. There’s an awful lot of fashion waste. But what happens to all those different types of fashion waste? is probably a bit unclear.

Elmar Stroomer  00:43

Yeah, it’s something that we are working on, also to make it more visible. So the global north is collecting a lot of use textiles, and the best of the best is sold within those countries. Then there is a lot of, they call it B quality clothing that is sold to Eastern Europe, but also to, to the global south. And we are looking at the issues that it causes in especially in Kenya and Nigeria. But there is a huge amount of textiles and secondhand clothing going to these countries. And because there is a lack of proper collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure, these items cause a lot of problems. And that is on the one hand, because these items are not made are not designed with circularity in mind, so they don’t have a value at the end of its life. And, yeah, we are basically sending on purpose or selling on purpose items or products that to countries without a an adequate infrastructure to process that waste.

Catherine Weetman  02:02

Sure. And as well as just the the amount and the kind of the fact that it’s the low quality end of what’s available. I guess, people assume that what’s being exported, is things that they’ve perhaps donated or put in a textile bank or something similar, even taken back to shops like H&M that have those collection practices. But it’s not just that as it, you know, it’s its production waste. And, you know, maybe could explains, you know, some of the sort of sizable flows in that.

Elmar Stroomer  02:41

Yeah, so, some studies show that about 30 40% of what is sent is wasted upon arrival. And that is on the one hand items with, with stains, with holes in them, but also a lot of unsellable items that can be also sizes that are so uncommon that there is just no buyer for them, or certain materials that just don’t fit with the climate. So I think, what how is that possible? And like, I wonder, like, how, why is this happening? Because on the one hand, the the final customer, the reseller of secondhand clothing in Kenya, or in another African country, they buy those items in bulk. So they buy a 50 kilo bill, they have to invest in that it’s about 150 to 200 euros per per bill. So they put up a lot of money to buy such a bill and then they have to try to double it, they have to try to make money on that. And when there is a lot of waste in those bills it is it is for them impossible to complain anywhere. So as though there’s a lot of other people in line that would like to take the gamble. There’s not like a service desk or complaint desk where you can go to and say this was a horrible bill. And I would like to have a better one next time. So that is there. So the resellers are the final buyers of those bills, they don’t have any power, and they don’t have anything to say. So in the beginning of the chain, and I’ve been to sorting facilities and I’ve talked to a lot of sorters in in the Netherlands and of course everybody would say that they don’t send waste. And but the system is rather complex. It’s not that the Netherlands when when or Germany or any other well off country is collecting all those items that they sort them themselves. Sometimes they first separate or like take out the trash and then sometimes it is sorted within the borders but sometimes it’s also sold to another country to Germany or to Poland Lithuania so The sorting takes place everywhere also in the US and Australia and even China, South Korea. So when when we when we say there is a lot of waste being shipped and look into, like, how is that possible but it’s it’s not easy to just pinpoint some aggressor or like, like one cause I think it is also for the sorter, because disorders, they complain a lot about the quality of the items that they collect, that they buy from collectors. Because in the last 10 years, the quality went down drastically. And they probably also have to reach and some numbers or some goals and some targets. So I think it is for the sort of very, in a way very tempting to classify a garment as a wearable item, instead of a recyclable item or as waste because if you can sell it as a wearable item, then you can get like one to two euros per kilo for it. If it is classified as recyclable, it goes into like five to 10 cents per kilo, it is a waste, it costs money to get rid of. So that’s one thing I’m not I’m not saying that all the sorters are deliberately classifying waste as as wearable items, but I can imagine that there is a bit of a challenge and that if you have certain targets to meet that it is very tempting to throw certain items in the wearable bucket. Next to that, I believe that also most sorters they have only one or two seconds per item to classify to make this this decision. So you can easily miss a whole or stain or especially the unsellable items that the sizes or anything that is not even checked. So I think that they have so little time to make this decision. And that can also cause this this problem.

Catherine Weetman  07:18

So the whole system is kind of set up to make it easy for the sorter to overestimate the value of the of the waist and not to be able to do something that that feels fairer and more accurate. And thinking about the problems that this causes in Africa as well as the challenges of trying to make money by reselling or repurposing the waste that you’ve just bought as a reseller or a collector. When we were talking ahead of the podcast, you were you were explaining how it undercut local textile manufacturing. Because now there’s a surplus of imported wearable stuff.

Elmar Stroomer  08:07

Yeah, so in the last 20 to 30 years, the fashion industry in Kenya has declined drastically it’s a shrunk. And that’s because it is very challenging to compete with secondhand clothing from from the Global North. Because there are some advantages in that in that clothing in the secondhand clothing sector because it offers a lot of style, it’s international brands. And these items are sold in Kenya, for example, for one euro for polo for T shirt and maybe 234 euros for jeans. And for the local fashion industry to compete with that is very challenging, because making new products for that price is very, very difficult. Like if you go to Bangladesh or China then the jeans is easily the cost price of jeans is like 15 euros or something. So for the fashion brands to compete with secondhand clothing from the global north is nearly impossible. It doesn’t mean that there’s no textile industry left in Kenya or Nigeria but what is left is basically focused on export. So there are clothes made, there’s actually quite developed, it’s still left there but it is 10 20% of what it was 20 years ago. But there is a second textile industry left but it is focused on on the export so it isn’t focused on exporting these materials to to Europe or the US and the fashion brands that are left that are focusing on the local market they focused on On on the high end market. So this, of course, the about 70 80% of all Kenyans were secondhand clothes. But there’s, of course, still a big group and especially in cities that are buying new clothes, and are very, that are sensitive for both very fashionable and high end items. And so if you are a fashion designer, Kenyan fashion designer, they focus mostly on that group, which is of course,

Catherine Weetman  10:32

it’s more one. Yes, yes. Gosh, it sounds sounds overly complicated and shocking to hear just how much the local textile industry has declined over the last number of years. So going back a number of years now to think around 2012 was when you started getting interested in how to solve this problem, a new set up Africa to collect textiles. So can you give us a quick overview, and we’ll we’ll come back to more about the operations later. But give us a quick overview of you know, how it started where you base now, some of the numbers to kind of bring it to life a bit?

Elmar Stroomer  11:13

Yeah, sure. I got to understand this, this challenge. About nine or 10 years ago, when I was also doing some projects in the Netherlands on textile recycling, I got to understand the whole get the end of the chain, or the the last steps of the T shirts, and I find it very fascinating. And I was working with one of the collectors in the in the Netherlands. At some point I we decided to look into if it would be possible to collect textiles again, in Kenya, because back then a lot of Dutch items end up in Kenya. And there are a lot of people that feel very bad about killing the fashion industry and killing nature, because a lot of these items eventually end up in the rivers, or are uncontrollably burned in the open air. So we looked into what is actually happening with the secondhand clothing. And can we collect it again? And what can we do with those materials again, so we started to collect already in 2013 2014, to see what would happen if we will do that. And it actually went quite well. So we put up collection bins in shopping malls and supermarkets, and did some promotion and ask people to to donate the clothes that they don’t use anymore. And the results were very positive. And there was also wearable items in there. So what my life went a little bit all over the place, we had many ups and downs, but I had another job at some point in Uganda. And then I went back to the Netherlands. In the meantime, I kept the programme alive together with my business partner, Alex musubi. And we decided to try to get more funding to grow the programme. And just before COVID, we landed some, some some investments and had the opportunity to to grow the collection network.

Catherine Weetman  13:29

And so give us a feel for how how, where it’s got to now in terms of the number of jobs that you’ve created, the amount of textiles that you’ve stopped from going to landfill?

Elmar Stroomer  13:43

Yeah, so Well, currently, we have 35 collection points in Nairobi and 10 in Lagos, Nigeria, so we asked the general public to donate the items that they don’t use anymore. It doesn’t matter if it’s wearable or non wearable. Then we take it we sorted we make sure that the wearable items can be worn again, some items are given away some items are sold. Then we are also selling some recyclable materials. And we do some upcycling ourselves. We are now with 16 people in Nairobi and three in Lagos. And we besides sorting, we have tailors and weavers and we are now upcycling a number of materials into backpacks, toys, pillows, pencil cases, and we supply different shops, but six shops now in Kenya and we have a distributor in the Netherlands and we supply a number of companies with items that we that are in most cases 100% Upside Good. So, yeah, so we are we are doing in that sense quite well. So our, our upcycling workshop is almost fully booked until the end of the year. And we are now preparing the next steps. So in our model, we have defined a number of steps. So first step is let’s collect large volumes. And next to post consumer waste. We are also collecting uniforms, and offcuts. But we also refuse a lot of materials because we simply do not have the space for that. Second step was to establish a an upcycling workshop whereby we are manually upcycling materials into new products. And then the next step is what we are now preparing is mechanically processing textile waste. Also, in order for us to process many more, like much more volume, because we had to, we have to refuse a lot of items. Also in the in the uniform space, there’s a lot of materials available and too much to process manually. So we need to invest in a number of machines to process that these these materials into filling failed and later on to recover the fibres back that can be spun again into new yarn.

Catherine Weetman  16:30

So you’ve got a full range of recycling options, kind of in the pipeline, in order to, because, you know, I think people are aware that a lot of textile recycling does end up as filling for car seats and wadding and that kind of thing. But you know, the, the challenge is to get it back into fibres suitable to be used for the same kind of textile. And just just to come back on just to make sure I’ve understood about the the the inflows, if you like, to the operation. So you started off collecting from consumers in Europe, and now you’re collecting from consumers in Kenya and Nigeria, as well as as well as in Europe. And you’re

Elmar Stroomer  17:22

Oh, no, no, we so i We have nothing to do with with the Textile Collection in in Europe. So our, our mindset is that affordable clothing or secondhand clothing doesn’t have to come from Europe, because it’s actually causing a lot of problems.

Catherine Weetman  17:40

So why did I misunderstand that then when you were talking about how you first got going you were talking about trialling collections did I miss understand was that was that in Kenya to begin with.

Elmar Stroomer  17:54

So I worked when it was still living in the Netherlands, I worked for a collector and that was doing research on textile recycling. Also, because in the Netherlands, we have a lot of textile waste, and it has almost no value. And we did some experiments and researches on how to deal with that textile waste, then I quit my job. And so I quit that chapter and then move to Kenya to set up act right now there is no link between the Netherlands and the collection and the secondhand clothing that that is coming from the Netherlands to Kenya, what we try to do is actually compete with that we believe that we need to create a counter movement or an alternative to reduce the dependency on secondhand clothing or affordable clothing from Europe. Because that is what is causing so much problems like if we if there is no if resellers require merchandise to sell, and the only thing that is available, it’s secondhand clothing from Europe, then all these problem arises and then people would people can send whatever they like. But what we try to do is to show that secondhand clothing doesn’t have to come from Europe. So also the money that is also spent on that also remains within the country. And and we try to basically make use of what is already there. And there’s a lot of people that have clothing in their closets. Being idle. There’s everywhere in the world people grow bigger and lose weight or kids are growing and or don’t like styles anymore of certain items. So also in Nairobi in Lagos where we are mostly active There’s a lot of people that say, Yes, I would love to get rid of some some of these clothes because I will never wear them again. And that is what we tried to facilitate.

Catherine Weetman  20:11

Yeah, in fact, well, we’re recording this in September, and it’s secondhand September. I’m not sure if that’s a worldwide campaign, but something Oxfam UK are promoting to try and encourage people to look in their wardrobes and see what’s not really been used and make sure it’s going to a person that’s actually going to make use of it. So yeah, we kind of saw too easy, isn’t it to just leave those things, lurking idle at the back of the wardrobe thinking one, one day they might fit or one day, they might look fashionable, or whatever. So and one of the interesting things that act AC T has done is to help restructure the reselling process. So at the beginning, you were telling us about the difficulties, and the challenges of that of buying these big bales that you’ve paid money for. And not really knowing whether what you find in there is going to be good quality or not, you might, you might even see something and think that looks like new material. And then when you unpack it, it turns out to be damaged in production or, or whatever. So it kind of looked okay, from the outside, and you’ve ended up with something that’s practically worthless. So how have you gone about restructuring that reselling process? And, you know, How’s it different? And what are the advantages?

Elmar Stroomer  21:33

Yeah, so So the normal system, the items that are coming from, from the global north, at least in Kenya, and it goes to the combat first, to the biggest second hand market of the East Africa, there is a specific area where those bills are being sold as a bill sometimes, so people can bind the whole bill. Or in some cases, there is also a bit of like, like a sort of like an auction system, whereby bills are cut open. And then the first person can bake, let’s say, like 10 items for one euro apiece, the second person can pick 10 items for 90 cents, and then until you will have some some waste left. So that system is it’s, it’s pretty intense, it’s pretty harsh. People are fighting over the best bills and the best qualities, you need to wake up very early on. So you need to be there at four o’clock in the morning, otherwise, you don’t get the good stuff. And for many women that is that is that is a huge challenge. women that are reselling secondhand clothes. And so and it’s also for many people not accessible, because you need to get you need to have the right connections and you need to have some money to invest in that. So because we are not locked or our system is not constrained by shipping containers and 50 kilo bales, we we had to opportunity to rethink the system. So we collect clothing, and we make smaller packages five to 10 kgs. And we bring it to people. So these are amounts that a person can sell in on a market day for example. So the same day you can double or triple the money. So what we do some of the the wearable items, they they go to women, we work now with about 37 women that are focusing on specific types of dresses or shirts or whatever. And then we supply them and then they can make money of them. And of course it is much cheaper. Our collected materials are much cheaper than imported secondhand clothes because we don’t deal with import taxes and shipping from the other side of the planet. So this is a fraction of the price of imported secondhand clothes and that makes it of course very interesting for people to make a little bit of money on.

Catherine Weetman  24:32

So are you struggling to keep up with demand I’m imagining when word gets around about how much better your system is for the resellers. I imagined demand is growing.

Elmar Stroomer  24:43

Yeah, no drawers are we work with the with the people that we were working with now. We also had a rethinking of the system. Because first we allowed people in our warehouse which was not the greatest idea so we redesigned the system. And this we are not doing for like about six, seven months like this. But yes, we are getting phone calls every day is there is there more supply. And that is why we need to collect more. And we need to scale our model. And we need to let people know that clothing needs to be used. And they need to be forwarded if they are not doing anything. So So that’s this is also one of our biggest challenges to, to spread the word and to normalise textile separation, because a lot of people think that textiles if you don’t use it anymore, if you don’t want it anymore, or broken shoes even they go into the normal trash. And once it it is mixed with with organic waste, it’s very difficult to to clean and becomes very costly. Basically lost and then goes to the landfill. So we’ve tried to avoid that by having our own collection system whereby we collect clothing and footwear clean and dry. But one of our biggest challenges is indeed to notify people to Yeah, to normalise textile donation and collection. And that is something that we are working on every day.

Catherine Weetman  26:24

Yes, I can imagine it’s it’s well, you know, everywhere. It’s difficult, isn’t it? It’s it’s another thing for people to have to change a habit of. And I was reading something in No, not I was gonna say you’re a monitor. But now Mintel Mintel have done a survey back in 2020. And they’ve projected forward for 10 years, what they think the main consumer trends will be, and split it into different categories. And they were talking about place, and the fact that people are going to be living in smaller apartments and you know, as population in cities, particularly increases all around the world, people will be living in a smaller space, because bigger spaces aren’t so affordable. And so there’ll be a much more pressure on how much stuff you can actually have in that place. And so they were kind of saying they see one, knock on effects of that being an increase in second hand, it will be normalised because people will routinely pass things on, and it won’t be seen as this thing that, you know, this isn’t good enough for me to wear anymore. It’s just that, you know, I’m bored with this now, I need to move it on so that I can put something else something different in my wardrobe. And that different thing might be secondhand.

Elmar Stroomer  27:51

You may you have to make that decision a bit faster, then.

Catherine Weetman  27:54

Exactly, yeah. But it’ll just be kind of a normal part of life, because people won’t have space to put so much stuff. So yeah, I can, I can see that I can see that happening. You know, even we don’t have much wardrobe space. And so twice a year, I have to get my winter outdoor gear out of a box, and put the summer stuff away and then and then hope that the seasons they don’t, you know, take a step backwards. So I think it sounds as if you’re, you’re doing some really system scale changes in trying to make those systems scale changes. And I think that could be really transformational. It’s, it’s incredibly interesting. And just to come back to the upcycling that you do in in the workshop and so on, you talked about pillows I think in in UK terminology we call those cushions so you know the men to go on your sofa and so on rather than on your bed and rugs and bags and things like that. And some of those can be bought directly from your your website for certain countries. Yeah, any do you want to list list a few countries so people can perhaps go and look up on the website and see if there’s something they want to buy as a gift?

Elmar Stroomer  29:11

Yeah, from from our website, it is best to or the net when when you are living in Kenya and Nigeria we it’s not that easy to ship all over the world. Okay, that’s why we are working with a distributor in the Netherlands that is there is one called Nic & Mic, so they they are also selling our our product. So that is when you are living in Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium or even UK it is better to order from there. But we definitely need to expand on on our distribution and selling points. So that is that is something that we are working on. In the beginning we thought we would like to focus on the local mall. goods, because we have the feeling that we can. This is just the beginning. And we can create so many items that that that are suitable for for the local market. And you don’t want to keep on shipping materials up and down. But on the other hand, it is also a huge opportunity, like, Europe is selling wearable items or like clothing to African nations. But yeah, we should also sell something back in another shape, using creativity and the skills and the crops that are available. So it’s definitely huge opportunity. But we didn’t know we also need to work on our stills network.

Catherine Weetman  30:42

Yes, another challenge for you that it looks to the other ones on your on your to do list. And Elmar, I’m curious to know what triggered your interest in this in the first place, because your background is is product design. And you’ve done a master’s in that at TU Delft. So how did how did you transition from designing products to getting involved in the other end of the supply chain?

Elmar Stroomer  31:12

Yeah, that’s that is? That is a good question. So like, I find it fascinating. On the one hand, I thought like when I got to understand this, this, this textile chain and, and how far it away is from being circular. And also when you compare it with, with paper and plastic. It’s just so far behind that has all kinds of reasons, because we are dealing with organic and oil based materials. It’s one big mix. But yeah, so I felt that I still feel there is so much that can be improved. And yes, I still think in product. So I am not into I’m not a fashion designer, which is also a bit of a limitation sometimes. But that’s why we work with fashion designers. But yeah, so when I see waste or, or certain waste streams, I see something like a feeling or like something you can make a product with. But yeah, we definitely need to look into the, to the fashion side of it as well. Especially and to take it apart, but also to, to re design it into wearable items. At some point, we have done projects to, to upcycle denim waste into wearable jackets, but then we always work with, with fashion designers. But in general, I think I found it fascinating. I think it’s also something that I can really feel that there is so much to be done. And it’s also that I get triggered because I have been in product development. But yeah, this is really sort of like my passion now. And, and I also see, what also drives me is that I see with with little changes or with little ideas, we can have a huge impact. And as an example, we make rocks, carpets, out of denim. And it’s just, we looked at all the denim that we collected and also the denim that is available on the secondary market that is just you know, ending it up into rivers at some point. And and we connected it with with typical Kenyan crops, like carpet weaving, it’s normally done with cheap wool. And just by replacing materials and drying and redesigning basically the the way it is done because the the item itself. Yeah, we created a totally new product and and I believe that this is just the beginning and also we we first worked with a number of Weaver’s weaving studios, we still do when we have big orders, we can outsource this, this this this product to them. But also we established our own small weaving studio with like two or three people and yeah, we are we’re setting up we’re creating jobs that are long lasting and that add like continuous and reliable salary because what you see a lot in Kenya that people people are it’s very unreliable. It’s very you don’t know when when the next paycheck is coming or when the next order is coming in. And I think this is this is for US, huge challenge, but also, for me very rewarding what eventually the result is because for example, we work with Margaret Amimo, it’s our head with stress. And we worked first with another weaving studio, but it was very badly managed, and it was difficult. And she had a very unstable situation over there. And we took her in and she’s basically the, she works extremely hard. And she’s the backbone of this product also, and, and just to do is to, to create a safe and

Elmar Stroomer  35:47

safe environment for together for the people, whereby they know exactly what they will earn each month, that is very valuable. And you can see people thrive and improve, and also families that are supported and children that can go to school, it’s also a bit of a sometimes a bit of a big, scary responsibility, because we need to keep it up. But what I like about it is it doesn’t even have to be so complicated with nice idea good design, with with the right skills, and determination, yeah, we can, we can do all kinds of things, and it can generate many, many jobs.

Catherine Weetman  36:34

Yeah, I’m just so impressed with all the different things that you’re doing to create value in, in the community and in the process, and think about the ways you can improve everyday lives for a whole range of people. So I think it’s, it’s, you know, got so much potential to carry on changing lives and, and as you say, Stop local stock, fashion waste and clothing, waste, textile waste, killing the local fashion industry and killing nature at the same time, which is a big issue. So Alma, over the years that you’ve been working on this, what surprised you the most?

Elmar Stroomer  37:20

In the negative or in either? Yeah, I think like, in the last few years, what is what is scary, like, I know, people that have been trying to fight fast fashion or trying to solve the problem, and what is what is scary is that it is not going slower. It’s also very difficult to make it slower. And, and yeah, I when we, when we talk to people, I mean, from from, from global brands, and anywhere and the everybody is actually doing what I can do, and people are very good people, but the overall system and the final result, a lot of textiles and waste and choose in the rivers in Kenya, behind the secondhand clothing markets. And, yeah, it’s something that is just like, it’s a complex, a very complex challenge. And it’s, it’s not that easy to just point it at, at consumers or fashion brands that do not design circular products or do not take care of the end of life of their items. And it’s sort of governments and regulations that this can happen. And of course, everybody has this, this, this, this responsibility and we can all easily point to other people as the main problem or the main aggressor. But eventually it’s this like, yeah, we are still here. And I thought also I would, I would get a bit more support from all kinds of angles to be understand. It’s yeah, we need to we need to convince people in in the way in certain ways that resonates with them. And I think a lot of people in the fashion industry and in the chain, they think that they are actually supporting you even as a fashion designer, you can say like I’m making feel, I make feel make people feel good or make few people feel sexy, and I make people can wear now to express themselves and so, and also the collectors and the sorters and we keep items away from the landfills. The government’s and we facilitate waste and we manage waste. And everybody’s doing actually quite something good but but it But the end result is is is horrible. And I think there is only a few people that have seen it. And also, if you want to read more about it, it’s that I think Greenpeace made a very interesting report is called poisoned gifts, with some photos also in in it and but yeah, what what surprised me the most is that a lot of people get the the they say yes, this is horrible, but nothing is really changing and it is it is, it’s difficult to, to step up or two.

Catherine Weetman  40:38

Because there’s just so many things that you that you need to change, many of which you have no control over. And it’s it sort of fits the definition of a wicked problem, doesn’t it? You know, no, no one solution, multifaceted. Lots of people involved and so on. So if you were talking to somebody and you know, telling them about the circular economy, and they were wanting to start something that was more circular or take their existing business in a more circular direction, what top tip would you share with them?

Elmar Stroomer  41:14

Yeah, so Yeah, a bit more of a positive note. And also related to the previous question, because I think what what is what is so interesting about it is that we about our journey. And even though we were there, it had been very frustrating, but it’s also what I liked about Otto, so much about this, that we just started something. And a lot of things along the way, sort of felt in in the places that were in place. And so for example, sometimes we we collect materials, and then all of a sudden there is someone interested in that waste stream. So for example, we were accumulating a lot of caning and made shoes. And these are the shoes that are from school uniforms, and the with a heavy black Rubber Soul. And we thought that yeah, there’s no no one interested in that. And all of a sudden, there is a person interested in that, that would like to do something with the rubber. And also, with with the uniforms, at some point we had called Nature Conservation organisations. It’s an elephant orphanage that wanted to do something good with their uniforms. But they were also very sceptical, like, what are you going to do with our uniforms, because we don’t want poachers to walk around in these uniforms, you need to tell us immediately, straightaway, what you’re going to do with those uniforms. And then within a week, we thought like, okay, let’s just make backpacks out of that. And then that was quite a success. And now they are buying back all those backpacks. So that became our service, which we haven’t thought of before we started it. But we are now offering service to two big companies with a lot of uniforms, give us a uniform, and we make relationships or relational gifts, or we make items for you that you can sell in your gift shop. And the nice thing is, it’s already in their branding, their logos are everywhere. So so it is actually a very logical thing to do. So some things that came along that were very, very inspiring. And and yeah, so also business models and income streams that we didn’t take into account when we when we started and when we drew up this plan eight or nine years ago. So that is something that is to come back to your question, I think. Yeah, it just start and it doesn’t have to be perfect, because the world is very linear thinking and I think you can easily shoot at people that are starting to do something circular and then bash them as they get butcher packaging is not circular or this is not circular. And what happens with that and yeah, and it can be very discouraging. But yeah, not not moving is not an option and things you need to repair the wheel when you’re driving. And that is so that doesn’t that will be my tip. Just start somewhere and see where it goes. Because we don’t have time to figure everything out into the

Catherine Weetman  44:39

Yeah. Do you try to come up with a perfect solution? And I think you made a good point about when when constraints are there. That’s when people have the great ideas, isn’t it? Like the backpacks from the uniform? So constraints can sometimes be be a creative advantage, and Elmar, who would you recommend as a future guest for the programme?

Elmar Stroomer  45:06

We look at NKWO from Nigeria. That’s a lady that’s a designer and but she’s also doing all kinds of training programmes. And I think what I like about what she’s doing is she really knows how to uplift the value of materials that used to be trash. So like, really flipping it from from the dustbin on to the runway. So NKWO, from Nigeria, I think I really would like what she is doing, and I think she, she can she has a strong opinion about many things. I also really like what designer also is good, Iamisigo. I think she her name is Isigo, but also very interesting how she uses the traditional crafts and history and we are recreating very interesting fashion pieces. And maybe I have to also mention that and more the activism side and they do amazing work in getting the word out on this on this fashion waste issue is the Or Foundation, in Ghana, they are very active in Ghana, they have very broad scope also in many programmes, all related to the fashion waste issues that are created in agreement continental market in Ghana. Definitely. Yeah, very, very powerful organisation.

Catherine Weetman  46:55

Thank you. I’ll look all of those up, and I’ll email you if I can’t. If I haven’t spelt the the names right that I’ve been jotting down. So thank you, Alma. And how can people find out more and get in touch?

Elmar Stroomer  47:09

Yeah, just go to our website, Africa collect textiles.com There’s a lot of pictures on our Instagram, also Africa collect textiles. I think these two places also our YouTube channel we buy now we have quite a number of movies sometimes made by other organisations, but also on YouTube. There are quite some nice movies about us.

Catherine Weetman  47:34

Great stuff. So I’ll put all those links in the show notes at Circular Economy. podcast.com. And thanks Elmar, it sounds as if you’ve been extremely busy over the last 10 years or so, solving a really complex range of problems or starting to solve a really complex range of problems because there are so many things still to untangle and, and improve. I suspect you could be there for years and years and years. You know, help helping people create better create more value and providing secure and meaningful jobs for people which is incredibly important to so thank you very much.

Elmar Stroomer  48:20

Thank you for having me.

Elmar Stroomer  48:27

So yes, Kenya is run by Alex Musembi and Nigeria is run by Eno Andrew-Essien. So they are also founders of the company and they are managing the entities. So my role is getting clients from Europe and getting raising funds. And also tell the story about this this problem to everybody that is involved and maybe he’s not aware that they that this is the end result of of their work or the fashion industry.

Want to find out more about the circular economy?

If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy and how it could help your business, why not listen to Episode 1, or read our guide: What is the Circular Economy

To go deeper, you could buy Catherine’s book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach, and includes hundreds of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy.  Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable. 

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