Achieving Goals One Year On | Four Month Update on The EPR Fund

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Four Month Update #3
Our Agreement with SHEIN: We receive $5M a year for three years in two installments per year. We received the first installment ($2.5M) on June 30th, 2022 and the second installment on January 25, 2023. This comes out of the overall EPR fund that SHEIN agreed to set up to benefit multiple organizations and communities, which is $50 Million over 5 years, or $10 Million a year.

Here’s what we have accomplished since our last update on March 20th, 2023.

Mabilgu Program for women and girls working as Kayayei

  • We have now supported 163 women to leave headcarrying in Kantamanto Market, including all of the women from our Chiropractic Program.
  • 100 women have been placed in paid apprenticeships, job training or scholarships for continued education through external partnerships as well as internal programs across our departments. We are currently working to place 45 women in apprenticeships, job training or continuing education programs in northern Ghana as we work to expand our overall programming in and around Tamale.
  • 41 women have graduated from an apprenticeship. We launched our Mabilgu Savings program offering financial support available upon program completion.
  • 15 Mabilgu participants are involved in our Material R&D and Community Business Incubation programs, actively leading the creation of new business models grounded in textile waste management.
  • Mabilgu House residents began their urban farming project at the house in central Accra.
  • Working with community partners and program participants, the Mabilgu Team organized a cleanup for residents of Old Fadama focused on clearing gutters ahead of the heavy rain.
  • In Process: continued outreach, education and advocacy around our chiropractic research findings.

Community Engagement & Secondhand Solidarity Fund

  • We met our target of distributing $500,000 in direct relief to Kantamanto community members.
  • We installed 240 fire extinguishers (and counting) throughout Kantamanto and offered fire safety training to over 300 people, building bridges between market associations. In June, several of the fire extinguishers were used to successfully quench a fire outbreak in the market.
  • We have supported the installation of new electrical wiring for one section of the market in order to improve both fire safety and electrical access. We have also begun designing a solar installation and rewiring program as a demonstration in one lane of a market section.
  • We have granted funds to a group of market retailers to build ramps into and out of their market section, making it easier to utilize carts instead of headcarrying.
  • Working with a local architectural and urban planning firm alongside market leaders, retailers and upcyclers, we have finished an initial design for the market upfit demonstration site. The design eliminates the need for headcarrying through the section, provides for fire resistant materials and safe storage inside stalls. We are currently planning a series of community and public meetings to review the design, to collect feedback, and to develop a phasing and implementation plan with market members.
  • We led a delegation of retailers and upcyclers from Kantamanto, as well as a city official from Accra and several team members on two additional advocacy trips to Europe to engage with policy makers, allies and brands about why communities like Kantamanto must be supported through Extended Producer Responsibility programs.

Ecological Research

  • We have captured and begun analysis on a total of 1704 water samples from across the Korle Lagoon and Accra’s beaches. Building on our citizen science model of community involvement, our sampling and analysis team recruits members directly from the areas along our sampling routes.
  • Our beach monitoring team continues to count textile tentacles (393 since our March 20th update) and is now working to remove them through a series of cleanups in collaboration with Won Bee Ga Ba! and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.
  • Through bacterial traps and targeted water sampling working with labs in Europe and the USA, we identified the likelihood of plastic-eating bacteria present in the Korle Lagoon and worked with consulting scientists to design a system integrating such nature-fueled decomposition as part of a remediation strategy. Further information will be published as work progresses and more detailed analysis is available. This work is funded through multiple sources.
  • We installed air monitors throughout Kantamanto to count particulate pollution and have begun capturing air samples with our Coriolis sampler from Bertin Instruments.
  • We completed the Agbetsi Living Water Swim for Science Expedition, the first ever 450km swim down the Volta River System to raise awareness of water pollution related to textile waste, to set the goal of making the Korle Lagoon swimmable again, and to collect water and air samples to inform our broader research and remediation planning. We captured 290 water and air samples from across the Volta River System during the Swim and reached over a million Ghanaian households with our Swim communications campaign.
  • In Process: Preparing for offshore water sampling and textile tentacle mapping. Supporting the monitoring of decomposition and remediation work.

Material R&D

  • 28 Metric Tons of clothing waste have been collected for transformation directly by our efforts, including the six tons of material collected for our fiber-to-fiber pilot but exclusive of the support we have given to retailers and upcyclers to help keep garments in circulation and to remanufacture items within the market.
  • With a new shredder and other equipment built entirely in Ghana and mostly from scrap metal, we developed the capacity to process up to one ton of material on a daily basis through internally manufactured products, including fiberboard and mops.
  • We sorted more than 15 tons of clothing waste by color and fiber content.
  • We worked with Yale architecture students to design and build flat pack furniture from fiberboard.
  • We shipped over 50,000 cotton t-shirts that would otherwise have been waste to Finland to pilot fiber-to-fiber transformation in an effort to design a system that can bring additional value added waste transformation practices to Ghana. The re-fiberized material will be returned to Ghana for spinning and weaving trials with local partners.
  • We supported our first micro-cohort of four Kantamanto-based upcyclers with finishing and quality control tools in addition to training.
  • We engaged more than 30 craftspeople and entrepreneurs across Kantamanto, Galloway Metal Market and Accra’s Timber Market to manufacture furniture, mops and equipment for both internal use and for sale.
  • We built the first pilot scale test of a decomposition system to potentially transform textile waste into beneficial nutrients based on natural ecosystem science. Trials are currently underway. This is partially funded by other sources.

Regranting & Internal Capacity
In total we achieved our goal of regranting $250,000 to organizations and individuals, including a $50,000 grant to a newly formed waste pickers cooperative, formerly of Kpone Landfill. As part of this effort, each department distributed a minimum of $5,000 to organizations of their choosing:

  • Our Administration and Comms teams reganted a total of $10,000 to an organization creating safe spaces for non-binary communities, and to organizations providing literacy and IT training to marginalized children.
  • The Material R&D and Community Business Incubation teams regranted $10,000 total to one organization working on community cleanups in Accra and two Kantamanto-based upcycling businesses.
  • The Ecological Research and Remediation team regranted $5000 to an arts-based education organization to support the next generation of community leaders.
  • The Community Engagement team regranted $5000 total to an organization advocating for physically disabled people in Ghana to ensure access and support across the country, and to a small business making traditional products from locally available renewable resources.
  • The Mabilgu Team regranted $5000 total to an organization making sanitary pads and to an organization making clay water filters in order to ensure young women can stay in school and to reduce the need for head- carrying water and the risk of waterborne diseases.

We are now a team of 37 full-time team members plus five additional team members supporting in a part-time capacity. This does not include independent consultants providing expert support on specific projects or groups such as our beach monitoring and sampling teams.