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. 

Oil-rich wealth funds seen shedding up to $225 billion in stocks

Updated 30 March 2020

Oil-rich wealth funds seen shedding up to $225 billion in stocks

  • Risking more losses is not an option for some funds from oil-producing nations

LONDON: Sovereign wealth funds from oil-producing countries mainly in the Middle East and Africa are on course to dump up to $225 billion in equities, a senior banker estimates, as plummeting oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic hit state finances.

The rapid spread of the virus has ravaged the global economy, sending markets into a tailspin and costing both oil and non-oil based sovereign wealth funds around $1 trillion in equity losses, according to JPMorgan strategist Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou.

His estimates are based on data from sovereign wealth funds and figures from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, a research group.

Sticking with equity investments and risking more losses is not an option for some funds from oil-producing nations. Their governments are facing a financial double-whammy — falling revenues due to the spiraling oil price and rocketing spending as administrations rush out emergency budgets.

Around $100-$150 billion in stocks have likely been offloaded by oil-producer sovereign wealth funds, excluding Norway’s fund, in recent weeks, Panigirtzoglou said, and a further $50-$75 billion will likely be sold in the coming months.

“It makes sense for sovereign funds to frontload their selling, as you don’t want to be selling your assets at a later stage when it is more likely to have distressed valuations,” he said.

Most oil-based funds are required to keep substantial cash-buffers in place in case a collapse in oil prices triggers a request from the government for funding.

A source at an oil-based sovereign fund said it had been gradually raising its liquidity position since oil prices began drifting lower from their most recent peak above $70 a barrel in October 2018.

In addition to the cash reserves, additional liquidity was typically drawn firstly from short-term money market instruments like treasury bills and then from passively invested equity as a last resort, the source said.

It’s generally a similar trend for other funds.

“Our investor flows broadly show more resilience than market pricing would suggest,” said Elliot Hentov, head of policy research at State Street Global Advisers. “There has been a shift toward cash since the crisis started, but it’s not a panic move but rather gradual.”

The sovereign fund source said the fund had made adjustments to its actively managed equity investments due to the market rout, both to stem losses and position for the recovery, when it comes.

Exactly how much sovereign wealth funds invest and with whom remain undisclosed. Many don’t even report the value of the assets they manage.

On Thursday, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund said it had lost $124 billion so far this year as equity markets sunk but its outgoing CEO Yngve Slyngstad said it would, at some point, start buying stocks to get its portfolio back to its target equity allocation of 70 percent from 65 percent currently.

Slyngstad also said that any fiscal spending by the government this year would be financed by selling bonds in its portfolio.