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Ecoalf: value in waste

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Did you know that you could make flip-flops from tyres, backpacks from plastic bottles and down jackets from discarded fishing nets? Or that you could make clothes more UV-resistant and fast-drying with coffee waste? Since 2010, Ecoalf, a fashion brand based in Madrid founded by Javier Goyeneche, has been making high-end fashion items from, well, rubbish… “We use what people don’t value – rubbish and waste – to create something that people do value – fashion. We collect marine debris from the bottom of the oceans with the help of fishermen, classify it, process it, treat it and eventually transform it into the thread which we use to make clothes and accessories.”

Javier recounts how he was shocked by the amount of waste in our seas. “I was out with a local fisherman from Villajoyosa, near Alicante, and their nets were simply full of waste,” says Javier, “even the few fish they caught were not apt for the market because they were full of rubbish inside. Initially, we convinced 3 fishermen to put containers in their boats, collect and separate the waste they caught in their nets for us. Today, we work with 3000 fishermen across 40 ports, collecting and transforming 250 tonnes of sea waste per year. 78% of what comes out of the sea can be recycled.”

“With research, we found out about the usability of plastic bottles, algae, discarded nets and other substances. As the saying goes, waste is only waste if you waste it.” However, recycled plastic won’t necessarily sell itself. “You can’t rely only on a pretty story out in the market,” explains Javier, “To survive, your clothes have to fit well and look good. The environmental story adds value, but we first need to meet the consumers’ taste.” Only by succeeding on both levels has Ecoalf been able to land a list of clients that include celebrities, monarchs, sports teams like Deportivo la Coruña and Greenpeace.

Another big challenge is cashflow. “It takes approximately 7 months between the moment we collect the waste and selling a jacket,” explains Javier. To solve this problem, Ecoalf secured an EU-guaranteed loan from Triodos Bank, made possible by the EIF under the EU’s Investment Plan for Europe, which enabled the company to continue with its activities and, ultimately, create 7 jobs and generate 80% growth.

“There is no planet B,” says Javier, whose passion is as strong for fashion as it is for the environment. “I named the business after my son, Alfredo, because I want to leave him a better world. We all need to learn to recycle and to innovate, to function in a circular economy. We’re just trying to do our part…”

Company: Ecoalf (Spain)

Type of business: textile; social enterprise

EIF financing: EaSI Guarantee Financial InstrumentEFSI

Financial intermediary: Triodos Bank

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Spain, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/es/index.htm

 

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