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Recycling textiles as social entrepreneurship

By Dimis Michaelides

Social innovations are new solutions to social problems, offering value primarily to society rather than private individuals. Anakyklos Perivallontiki is an excellent local example of social entrepreneurship.

It was founded in 2010 to contribute to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment by Doros Michael, Androulla Shati and Giorgos Michael.

It operates 450 collection banks (purple bins) for clothing in Cyprus and a network of over 400 schools, local authorities, institutions and charities.

Anakyklos is also active in informing citizens, especially schoolchildren, on environmental issues and has created 35 green jobs. Doros Michael spoke to us about his venture.
Asked how Anakyklos Perivallontiki was created, Michael said: “We knew there were huge amounts of unwanted textiles, most of which ended up in landfills, and thousands of people for whom those textiles are useful.

We wanted to contribute to a better environment with less waste and use the income to develop environmental projects and help people in need.”
Anakyklos works as follows.

Tens of thousands of ordinary people donate textiles to collection banks and charities.

Anakyklos processes them and sends some to its solidarity shops, to be offered free to people in need, or sold at low prices to people who cannot afford expensive clothes or even to people who prefer to buy unique (vintage) clothes for themselves or stage/TV shows.

Most are exported, for reuse and recycling, generating the main income of Anakyklos.
“The main beneficiary is Cyprus society through the positive effects of reduction of waste,” said Michael.

Asked what were the most important challenges in the early days, Michael said: “Mainly the absence of knowledge or understanding from state officials and banks on recycling and the social economy.

As a result, we had to wait for one year to get a licence (the first in Cyprus) and we worked slowly through self-funding.”
In the first six years, Anayklos received the award for an ‘Organised Group with Significant Environmental Activity’ from Green Dot Cyprus’ 4th Environmental Awards.

The EU recognised Anakyklos as ‘the first true social enterprise’ in Cyprus and it was chosen as the best practice proposal for Cyprus in the European project ‘Social and Solidarity Economy as an alternative to Development’.

As for future plans, Michael says Anakyklos is in a strong position to further develop its activities for the benefit of the environment and the community.

“A new legal framework for the social economy will help us create more jobs, as in other European countries where social enterprises are recognised as a significant part of the economy,” he said.

 

The writer is a consultant,speaker and trainer on leadership, creativity and innovation – www.dimis.org

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