Nov 16, 2022
In Cape Verde, ocean waste is being turned into bags and bracelets
Nov 16, 2022
Each year, hundreds of tonnes of waste end up polluting the beaches of the Cape Verde archipelago, driven by the marine currents of the Atlantic and the Canaries. Two entrepreneurs have decided to tackle this problem with the Simili brand, which transforms the fishing nets collected on the sand into fabrics to create bags and other fashion accessories.
Fishing nets of all colors, plastic bottles, and other ocean waste litter the fine sand of many of Cape Verde's islands. This pollution results from the marine currents that each day deposit detritus originating from all continents -- or just about. This distressing observation led two women, Helena Moscoso and Debora Roberto, to launch into upcycling in 2019, adopting a practice now favored by many fashion designers seeking to fight waste, overproduction, and land and sea pollution at their own scale.
Waste as a raw material
Through the Simili brand, recognizable by its fish-shaped logo, the two entrepreneurs aim to rid the beaches of this unwanted waste while promoting local expertise and crafts. The fishing nets collected on the beaches serve as a raw material, and are transformed by specially trained seamstresses into fashion accessories such as bags, pouches, cases and bracelets.
Although the initiative does not allow for large-scale production, it nevertheless contributes to cleaning up the beaches while raising awareness about the issues surrounding marine pollution.
"Over the weekend, we started collecting raw materials to launch our production. Unfortunately, the Atlantic offers a lot of it! We want to give a new life to these materials that threaten marine life," the two Simili founders posted on Instagram when launching the brand. A year later, they added: "We would prefer not to have so many raw materials available, but [our] creation will continue to focus on this problem and try to reduce it, even if on a very small scale."
Promoting local skills and expertise
Accompanied most of the time by volunteers, the two women regularly participate in clean-up campaigns on different islands, including Santa Luzia and São Vicente, organized by associations and organizations such as the NGO Biosfera, which works for the protection of coastal and marine resources in the archipelago. This is a never-ending task, as there is so much waste on the beaches, not to mention the difficulties faced when the waste is (already) buried in the sand. "In Santa Luzia there are nets so buried and stuck to the rocks that they are already part of the landscape. This is the reality on the beaches of Cape Verde," reads one post on the brand's Instagram page.
Three years after the launch of this project, which was founded just before the pandemic, dozens and dozens of bags have been made by hand by the seamstresses of Salamansa, a village in the north of São Vicente.
Training as a seamstress enabled these women to gain employment in the Simili workshop, each day transforming the fishing nets collected into bags, small pouches and cases and bracelets, as reported by Jeune Afrique magazine. These are sold to the people of Cape Verde, as well as to tourists, to promote the circular economy and raise awareness about ocean pollution.
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