Recycling and Weaving in Burkina Faso

Uniting the promotion and development of textile craftsmanship with an ethical, eco-responsible approach is an ambitious gamble, one which has been taking place in Burkina Faso. There, like in other African countries, the cities are enormously polluted, mostly due to the rubbish and plastic bags which are thrown into the street through negligence, dirtying the ground and even the water supply.
It is this that encouraged the creation of a hand weaving centre in Bobo Dioulasso, the second largest city in the country. Opened in 2003 by the Le Gafreh cooperative, the centre employs eighty five women from modest backgrounds, and teaches them how to recycle and to weave. The plastic bags, which are mostly black, have become the main material used in this weaving workshop. Firstly they are collected in the streets by people in a state of poverty, who then receive the minimum wage whilst also participating in clearing up the urban environment.
recycling and weaving burkina faso, le gafreh-3
recycling and weaving burkina faso, le gafreh-4
The plastic bags are then hand washed with soap, disinfected, dried and then cut into thin strips. They are then given to the women of the association who take care of the delicate work of weaving the plastic onto the reels and bobbins.
recycling and weaving burkina faso, le gafreh-6
The plastic bags find a new lease of life in this beautiful black material which looks almost like tar and is as flexible and resistant as leather, that the women have learnt to produce on narrow hand looms. The strips are woven with strings of black cotton to create a material which is both resistant and shiny, often decorated with brightly coloured stripes, like modern versions of traditional cloths from Burkina Faso.
recycling and weaving burkina faso, le gafreh-8
The last stage of the long process is the production of a large range of textile products: Sustainable fashion accessories like bags, pockets, purses, but also decorative items such as boxes, bins, table sets or cushions.
recycling and weaving burkina faso, le gafreh-10
From plastic waste to creations made from a noble cloth, this initiative has succeeded far beyond the frontiers of Burkina Faso. The house of Yves Saint Laurent fell for this unique material and used it for their limited edition bag “le Muse Two Artisanal Recycled” in 2011.