Due to coming into constant contact with materials like ink, dust and cement, the uniforms of those working at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Bahia, only last around two months on average. Yet far from being thrown away, their usable life is only just beginning.

With the issue of sustainability in mind, authorities at the Arena found an ideal destination for all these used pieces of clothing: since last year, 1,800 items were cleaned and donated to the Projeto Axé Design, which turns them into products such as bags, placemats, toiletry bags, mobile-phone holders, purses and aprons.

And while this project does not come under the direct auspices of FIFA or the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ Organising Committee (LOC), it remains perfectly in line with the issue of waste and recycling, a crucial part of the overall strategy for Brazil 2014.

“We’re giving these materials a new lease of life, by adding such things as patterns, accessories and linings,” explained Luciano Galeao, who is the stylist behind the design of the recycled items.

We’re giving these materials a new lease of life, by adding such things as patterns, accessories and linings.

Luciano Galeao

“We do have other partners, but at the present time 60 per cent of what is on sale in our shop was made from the workers’ uniforms. For our clients that makes a huge difference, because they’re really drawn by the fact it’s a recycled product and is linked to football, the Arena Fonte Nova and the FIFA World Cup that’s coming to Salvador.”

Galeao confirmed that all the profits made via the sale of these products are passed on to Projeto Axé, which is a non-governmental organisation that carries out artistic and educational initiatives with children and adolescents in vulnerable situations.

Eighteen years ago, Edebaldo dos Santos was rescued from a life on the streets by Projeto Axé and now, at the age of 32, he is working in the organisation’s print-making section, stamping designs on the materials that come from the Arena Fonte Nova.

“We’re working at double-quick pace to process these materials and really take advantage of this opportunity,” said Dos Santos. “I’d like to take this chance to say thanks for the clothing donations, while I hope the contribution I’m making here can help the project get other kids off the streets.”

Progress continues
Aside from the products sold in the shop, donated fabrics are also used in classes that teach embroidery and other handicraft skills. Any leftover materials are broken up into fibres to be used in the print-making section, thus guaranteeing that nothing is thrown away before being reused.

“Even trouser pockets end up being used to line the inside of bags,” revealed Galeao, and the social welfare slant of this particular initiative, which first came about due to the environmental concerns of those at Arena Fonte Nova, does not stop there.

“We took a van with 12 workers from the Arena Fonte Nova to learn more about Projeto Axé and to see its office,” said the Arena’s environmental manager, Renata Ribeiro.

“We’ve already raffled off some of their products among our workforce and the surrounding communities, while at our conferences we’re always talking about how important it is to recycle waste materials and we use this initiative as an example.”

The items mentioned can be found in Projeto Axé’s shop in Salvador’s historical centre, O Pelourinho, as well as in the visitor centre at the Arena Fonte Nova. Over the past year, 20 different products were designed and nearly 2,000 items put up for sale.

The price of Ecobags ranges between 19 and 49 Brazilian Reais (BRL), a mobile-phone holder is 10 BRL and an apron 30 BRL. Next on the agenda will be to start producing clothing items such as shorts and skirts, in addition to setting up an online shop.