“Dress up the change”: re-use practices to encourage sustainability in urban areas

Born in Slovenia, a new project aims to support sustainable practices in urban areas, such as promoting waste reduction by both raising awareness on social behaviours and encouraging creative entrepreneurship which generate new urban businesses and creating professions for sustainable development.

It is necessary to rethink the productive cycle, from a traditional linear process to a circular economy form which is able to regenerate itself. In the first case, the process starts from the extraction of new raw materials which are then transformed into goods that can be sold and which become, at the end of its life cycle, waste materials. Contrarily, circular economy through differentiation, recovery and regeneration of goods leads to value maximization and waste reduction as it perpetuates the production process, and also increases both social inclusion and responsibility. But how can this be done?

Within URBACT, the European programme helping cities to exchange experiences on sustainability, Snaga d.o.o. – a public utility company owned by 11 municipalities, amongst which Maribor is the biggest – launches a call for an active partner in the field of waste management to develop best practices of re-use connected with social entrepreneurship.

In Maribor, the second most populated Slovenian city, 10% of waste textiles are still undifferentiated and often citizens do not show motivation to work on that. Therefore it is necessary to sensitize people to the re-use practices: the goal of the project is to collect and separate textile materials to close the waste loop according to the principle of circular economy and use the revenues obtained from their sales to finance urban community social activities.
The promoters of the initiative propose a challenge on three main areas: reaching environment goals, spreading social responsibility and generating social inclusion. For instance, they encourage the production and the use of second-hand textiles and the reduction of plastic-use. They also promote, scarce professions such as sewing as well as new forms of innovative entrepreneurship, involving various stakeholders active within the urban area.

The real challenges will be to involve citizens in implementing creative re-use practices, supporting young people in becoming entrepreneurs, implementing new waste-disposal regulatory policies, spreading the idea that activities with high social impact can generate new forms of sustainable business.