“We are not a standard business enterprise, but we sure are having fun!” says Tara Hopkins, co-founder of Turkey’s all-female garbage shop, çöp(m)adam. And what doesn’t sound fun about garbage!?
In fact, there’s a lot that’s fun. çöp(m)adam means “garbage (wo)man,” and the 50 ladies working at the company in West Turkey do indeed “toss out” quality handbags made from recycled garbage that are then sold in local high-end markets and online!
Tara and her co-founder, Melih Öszöz, launched the experimental project in 2008 to “take garbage and turn it into something fashionable and fun.” The project’s main aim is to not only address the major waste management problem in Turkey (10,000 tons of waste are produced every day in Istanbul, with only 18% recycled), but to employ women who never before received a salary. “Our aim is to offer opportunities to women who have not seen their role as anything other than a mother and a wife,” Tara says. And the handbags each contain a note with the name of the woman who made it, making it as much a piece of art as environmentally sustainable fashion!
çöp(m)adam has recently opened two new workshops and worked with a total of 500 women, while recycling more than 20 tons of waste and selling over 8000 bags! But “It’s not just about earning money, it’s about self-confidence,” Tara explains. “The way [our women] hold their heads up, the way they carry themselves, the way they voice their opinions […] are indicators that do not fit on prescriptive impact assessment forms.”
The company recently collaborated in a poverty-eradication program to teach disabled girls and their mothers from Moldova the new art of turning garbage into high-quality products. The women then returned home, the next generation of women who are quite literally learning to spin garbage into gold!