Women are protecting the environment through a textile recycling program

Women are protecting the environment through a textile recycling program

Telareciclo is a program that contributes to sustainable development by generating income for micro-entrepreneurs

One of the industries that have the greatest impact on the environment is the textile industry. The production, distribution, use, and disposal of clothing contaminates water sources and generates high CO2 emissions into the planet.

However, a group of women, through the Telareciclo program of the World Women's Corporation Colombia, reduces the environmental impact of textiles discarded by fashion companies and other inputs, which are incorporated into a solidarity and circular economy model, improving the quality of life for people living in difficult contexts.

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The circular economy utilizes on these reusable inputs to create corporate products for the same waste-generating companies. In addition, fibers are recovered to be applied in final products such as threads and yarns, fabrics, felts, cushion fillings, pillows or stuffed animals, and cleaning rags.

The program currently operates in Bogotá and Cali and seeks to expand to other cities in Colombia and the region.


Thanks to the extension of the useful life of textile waste, it is avoided being incinerated, disposed of in landfills, or, in the worst case, ending up in nature or water sources. This prevents the emission of 0.41 kgCO2 and 0.84 kgCO2 for each kilogram of textile waste that would otherwise be burned or disposed of, respectively.

The inclusion of communities in the pre-treatment processes of waste for its subsequent utilization phase is an additional element that helps improve their quality of life.

For Alejandra Melo Chaves, Director of the Innovation Center for Sustainability of the World Women's Corporation Colombia, there are many achievements with this initiative: environmental sustainability, reuse, and research of new materials, and social inclusion.

Thanks to her passion for design and the development of new projects for innovation and social and economic inclusion, her creativity and passion are focused on social work with indigenous communities, people dedicated to recycling, and environmental issues.

This industrial designer from the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University, with a master's degree in Furniture Design from the European Institute of Madrid (IED), arrived in 2015 at the Design and Innovation Center of the World Women's Corporation to continue with work she was already doing with recycling communities and on environmental issues, which was strengthened and is being expanded to benefit more communities through the circular economy.

It is a good practice that more sectors of the region's economies could take advantage of, which not only relieves pressure on the environment but also integrates productive groups of micro-entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs who find protecting the environment a good source of income and improving the quality of life of communities.

An extreme case in the region

 One of the countries most affected by poor textile waste disposal in Latin America is Chile, one of the largest importers of used clothing that ends up in the Atacama Desert, where up to 20 tons are illegally dumped daily. It is a problem that concerns the communities in that region and has led young people to propose ideas that alleviate pressure on the environment.

This is the case of the largest university entrepreneurship program in the region, organized by the Innovation Center of the Catholic University and Santander Bank, which awarded a group of young students for their localized combustion initiative last year. This innovation allows textile recycling to benefit from a system that properly sorts fabrics and streamlines their separation and recycling.

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