NGO Academy Member Story #7: How remesh gives a second life to old advertising material


When we heard about Ateliere Fără Frontiere‘s new workshop, we were intrigued to hear more about this social & circular business, which runs by the name remesh. Beatrice and Ștefania were nice enough to answer us our questions – and participate in a little photo shoot!     

What is Ateliere Fără Frontiere’s Mission?

AFF is a Romanian non-profit organization established in 2008 with the main mission to integrate on the job market people at risk and coming from vulnerable backgrounds, in its circular economy workshops. The organization is part of SOS Group – International Action, a worldwide network working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ateliere Fără Frontiere created three work integration social enterprises: educlick, the bio&co social farm and remesh. We have recently added a fourth workshop – logietic. The participants in the integration programs benefit of a very well structured path, during which they receive personalized training, social and professional counseling, psychotherapy and pedagogical support. That helps them acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for their full autonomy and employability on the job market, but also the necessary support to overcome various challenging situations in their lives (addictions, disabilities, long-term unemployment, domestic violence, human trafficking, homelessness, etc.)

At educlick we collect electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) free of charge, which is then sorted, refurbished and what cannot be repaired is sent for recycling. The IT equipment is donated to the most vulnerable schools in Romania.

At bio&co, AFF’s organic vegetable social farm, we grow over 80 varieties of organically certified vegetables on 4 hectares of fields and greenhouses. Vegetables are distributed weekly in a short circuit, directly to subscribers, in a basket containing 8-9 varieties of bio&co vegetables and country products.

One of the workshops run by Ateliere Fără Frontiere is “Remesh”, where bags and more are manufactured. Can you tell us more about “Remesh”? Why is it unique?

remesh started as a new enterprise of Ateliere Fără Frontiere in the circular economy, aiming to develop new employment opportunities for disadvantaged women, but men are equally welcome. In this workshop, not only people, but also OOH (Out of House) advertising materials get a chance at a new life. Each individual item has a story, it is made from the most beautiful and interesting parts of an OOH banner that was at risk of ending up incinerated or in the landfill, but which now has the chance to be carried on a shoulder, taken in adventures, loved and maintained for years on end. The remesh bags are a good alternative to single use plastic, as they are durable and last for many years. Nonetheless, they are chic, colorful and a statement for slow and ethical fashion.

No part of the banner is thrown away; the surpluses are shredded, for example and used to fill puffs. To date, through the remesh workshop, we have collected approximately two tons of advertising waste, recycled more than 160,000 meters of banners and meshes, and sewed more than 77,350 products.

Every new product manufactured is a step towards a better life for the person who created it. Most of the workers who are part of the insertion program in the remesh workshop are women, with difficult life stories who went through hard to imagine situations, who had to leave the toxic environment they faced and find a new chance for themselves and their children. They are strong women eager to learn and develop, hardworking and very ambitious.

When starting the workshop, what were – or still are – the biggest challenges?

The challenges lie in finding the balance between offering the support that the employees need and being productive, delivering the orders on time, as most of the people we work with face learning difficulties or are working on their motivation. Our team of specialists is there to support, overcome difficulties and teach job skills. Having someone aside, provides a safety net that many lack, and encourages them to push themselves.

What are your most important learnings in upcycling waste?

Upcycling is the most environmentally friendly method by which waste left over from OOH campaigns can be reused. It transforms advertising waste into new products, without breaking them down into the raw materials they were made of. The OOH material cannot be recycled, and the only solution for their disposal is incineration, a process that releases very toxic substances into the air, both for the human body and for nature. That is why, we focus on reusing materials to their maximum potential, thus extending their life and avoiding their recycling as much as possible.

On your website it says “remesh is UPA” – can you explain to us what that means?

Authorized Protected Unit (known as UPA in Romania – a sheltered workshop) is an undertaking where at least 30% of its employees are people with various disabilities. remesh is an UPA or sheltered workshop. Each company with over 50 employees is required to hire people with disabilities for at least 4% of its personnel and if this condition is not met, then a tax consisting of minimum wage is redirected to the government. However, the companies are incentivized to use up to half of the total amount of this tax, namely by purchasing products and services from an UPA organization, such as remesh. For example, if a company buys bags or other remesh products for its events, that company is exempted from half the value of the financial charge.

What do you love especially about this workshop or what are you especially proud of?

Each individual workshop is unique and we have equal appreciation for all. As for remesh, it is its uniqueness, its environmentally-friendly traits, but also its courage that makes it special. It is a workshop created particularly for women and it humbles us to know their stories and to be able to guide them in such a beautiful and environmentally friendly way while sharing their joy and excitement. We care for the work in the remesh workshop precisely because it contributes to the environmental protection and the results are completely unique. The most beautiful and satisfying part is when we successfully reach the end of the integration program and the moment when we manage to find suitable jobs for the employees. It means that we managed to support them into becoming autonomous individuals with a desire for change.

You also offer personalized products to other Businesses – can you tell us a little more about that?

remesh offers us the necessary flexibility to collaborate with various businesses or brands. Any category of remesh products can be customized with the logo of a client, in different sizes or shapes. Through such partnerships, we help companies find sustainable and practical products. Being an UPA organization, companies have financial incentives but they also support us by purchasing our products for various events. It is very important to partner with brands that fit AFF’s values and can give us the necessary visibility and exposure to the right audience, and such partnerships are a great way.

Learn more about Ateliere Fără Frontiere on their website.

Bags and many other great individually manufactured item accessories and deco articles are available online here.

A big thank you to Beatrice and Ștefania for taking the time to answer our questions in such detail! You want to share a new project or an interesting development from within your organisation with our network as well? We’re happy to hear from you via