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Le Tri d’Emma gives used textiles a second life

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes - Villerest
Access to employment

Since early 2011, the very new association Le Tri d’Emma has been collecting and sorting thousands of tonnes of used textiles in the Roanne region of the Loire. These textiles are then recycled by specialised networks.



The Emmaüs network was at the origin of this project. “Emmaüs has long-standing know-how in the field of processing used textiles. It was therefore able to set up a comprehensive support policy aiming to create jobs in this sector,” explains Jean-Luc Mieszczak, director of Le Tri d’Emma. “Here, in Villerest, we are in an area that welcomed a large number of textile manufacturers and was hit hard by de-industrialisation. Today, 20% of the population is below the poverty line, and unemployment is through the roof, especially among women.”

Utilise surplus textile donations

Based on this observation, he launched Le Tri d’Emma as a social integration enterprise in March 2011 and recovers the surplus from local collection associations. Every year, Emmaüs, the Red Cross and Secours Populaire receive tonnes of used textiles but do not have the material and technical capacity to process all of it so 80% of these donations cannot be utilised and are thrown away. In this chain, Le Tri d’Emma takes up the relay. Half of the clothing is sold as such to the Le Relais network, 20% is destined for unravelling (the unravelled fabric is used to make new fabric fibres), 10% is turned into building insulation, 10% into industrial wiping cloths, and only the remaining 10% is buried or incinerated. In 2011, the association sorted 1,300 tonnes of textiles; its target for 2012 is 1,500 tonnes.

Le Tri d’Emma therefore has an ecologic aspect because it reuses waste that previously would not have been used. Above all, however, its aims are social. Approximately fifteen people seeking integration through employment work there. “They are all long-term unemployed, and can stay up to 24 months,” says Jean-Luc Mieszczak. “The first six months allow people to re-familiarise themselves with employment, teach them again to comply with schedules, hierarchy... Then, we work with them on a professional project to help them find a job.” Elisabeth Oriol was hired in April 2011. At the age of 55, she had been unemployed for a year and a half. “At my age and without a diploma, it was almost impossible for me to find a new job,” she says. “I will be here for two years, but if I could, I’d stay. I like it here.”

Workshop visits to expand options

Thanks to financing in the amount of 25,000 euros from the VINCI Foundation in 2011, the social integration enterprise was able to buy sorting bins for the various textiles collected. This partnership is in place for the long term thanks to the involvement of Eric Désormière, based in Roanne and head of human resources for Cegelec’s Réseaux Centre-Est agency (a subsidiary of VINCI Energies), who agreed to act as the association’s local sponsor. “We don’t see each other every day, but we trust each other. It is a very rewarding experience that has allowed me to meet wonderful people,” he says. “I give them advice on on-site safety and prevention. I also want to set up workshop visits for the staff seeking integration, so they can discover construction trades and perhaps be exposed to new opportunities. I agreed to give a little of my time to help these people get back in the saddle,” he adds. A project that is starting off on the right foot because, at the end of 2011, two of the association’s employees have already found jobs in the region.

March 2012 © Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

VINCI Foundation works with Reporters d'Espoirs, a French news agency, to highlight and share the innovative social initiatives that it supports. The arrangement includes the writing of articles and exchange on topics that lead to solutions. Thus presented, the initiatives, validated using the criteria of the editorial charter of Reporters d'Espoirs, are intended to demonstrate their development and results.