#seeopportunity

Banners of Progress: Students help artisans turn trash into must-have accessories.

  • November 12, 2014
  • By: Shea Sullivan

“As members of Enactus, these students were able to repurpose waste into chic products that were able to generate income for local artisans and their families.”

–Andrew Cranston, Chief Operating Officer of KPMG, discussing Project Pasni, which recycles used advertising banners into marketable products.

Many great ideas start with a simple question that sparks a life-changing idea. For students from Universidad del Valle de México campus Texcoco, the question was “What happens to vinyl advertising banners after they’ve served their promotional purpose?” In the newest video from the #seeopportunity campaign, Andrew Cranston, Global Chief Operating Officer of KPMG, discusses Project Pasni, which recycles used advertising banners into accessories.

Team member and founder of Project Pasni, Ana Marie Nieto Arredondo has strong environmental convictions and was investigating what happened to vinyl banners after they were used. K Kartello, a local advertising company, used many vinyl banners, but Arrendondo did not find any form of recycling for the banners. They were just thrown away, piling up in the landfill, or burned, releasing harmful toxins into the air. Arrendondo further noticed that many of the banners were colorful, with interesting designs. If they were reused, they could make stylish, waterproof accessories.

The next challenge was to find artisans willing to work with the fabric. Arredondo met a married couple, Lupita and Ruben, who were in need. The couple relied on their dairy company to generate all their income, but it was not enough to cover all of their needs. Arrendondo discovered that the couple could make purses and offered them the banners to work with, which would alleviate the stress of finding fabric to work with. However, it was not easy to convince them to use the banners. According to Diego Ramirez Solano Armando, who currently works on Project Pasni, the artisans, “thought in [the] beginning that [it] was difficult to work with these tarps, but after a while they accepted to work with us because of their economic situations.”

Lupita working with the team from Universidad del Valle de México campus Texcoco

The fabric was not easy to work with, but with talent and hard work the artisans prevailed. They began making high fashion designs for the purses, wallets, cosmetic bags and binders that they sell today. These bags ended up being not only environmentally-friendly, but also a must-have fashion trend.

Since beginning the project, two artisans have joined Project Pasni in recycling banners. This has resulted in 26,909.776 square feet of recycled banners. The team gets banner donations from K Kartello, the local advertiser that sparked their interest, along with other companies, like Cleantech Challenge Mexico, Universidad del Valle México, political parties, schools and other business donors.

The products are sold in a store located in Texcoco de Mora Estado de México. To date, over 5,000 products have been sold, resulting in extra income for Lupita and Ruben, as well as other artisans.

The project has alleviated stressors that artisans shouldered alone. Armando said, “Now the economic burden does not fall on one family member because now all the family is working on the project.”

Since the beginning of the project, the team’s biggest challenge has changed from finding artisans willing to work with the tough fabric. Armando explained, “Now the challenge is continuing with the project, because we do not have all the economic and machine resources to elaborate and improve the quality of the ecological bags.”

Despite these struggles, the Enactus team finds inspiration to persevere. “We feel so glad to work with one heart, one mission, and one vision,” said Armando.

The team hopes to engage more companies in recycling with Project Pasni and make connections with companies who can help them grow as a brand so they can help even more people like Lupita and Ruben.