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Smetumet – Turning trash into treasure

December is the month of gift-giving. Everyone is happy to receive gifts, but shopping and searching for the perfect ones to give on the other hand can be unnecessarily stressful for many people. Crowded stores, packed shelves, overflowing carts. Too much of what is often senseless consumption only for a brief moment of happiness.

Why not make your first New Year’s resolution in December – to become a more conscious consumer? Why not give recycled trash as a gift?

Have you ever asked yourself whether all those seemingly worn-out objects are actually trash? Could any of your scrap objects be used to serve a new purpose?

Certainly, say the founders of the cultural ecological association and social enterprise Smetumet, who use their brilliant ideas and crafting skills to give trash a new life. The work and the creativity of Maja Rijavec and Alenka Kreč Bricelj, who are at the heart of the Smetumet Association, are guided by the principles of re-thinking, re-using and re-cycling.

  • Slika - Recikliran nahrbtnik

    Tarps, belts, straps and various ribbons become big, smaller and the smallest bags or backpacks. Photo: Smetumet archives

What exactly is Smetumet?

Smetumet is something beautiful. The name, which is a compound of the Slovenian words smet (trash) and umetnost (art), says it all – it is art made from trash.

This is a story of sustainability, second chances and giving new meaning to old things. It encourages people to consider changing their attitude toward trash.

Worn-out objects that would sooner or later end up in the trash are given a new appearance. Tarps, belts, packaging, cartons, shoelaces, bags, straps and various ribbons become big, smaller and the smallest bags. Some people use them for shopping while others wear them as precious fashion accessories.

"Smetumet’s creation in 2007 was spontaneous. It evolved from an idea of friends, sociologists with an affinity for design and a desire for something new, different and beneficial for society. We wanted to address some of the self-evident everyday practices and continue their legacy through trash. Not all trash is ugly and dirty, especially if it is meticulously separated," Maja Rijavec reminisces about the beginnings of the Smetumet Association. 

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A story of success

In twelve years, a spontaneous idea has turned into a success story with many supporters. "We are a mosaic of unswerving people, mentors and assistants that carry out workshops and prepare the materials for products, and various association members. We cooperate with several stitching shops and companies that make our final products. Priority is given to social enterprises, companies that employ people with disabilities and Slovenian companies in general," Alenka Kreč Bricelj says about the association.

"We are very happy that the principles of sustainability and reusability are gradually becoming mainstream. At this point, principles need to be transformed into actions and systemic change.

Our workshops are very popular and are mainly organised for schools, kindergartens, companies, festivals, etc. The majority of Smetumet products are sold to the companies that provide us with their scrap materials, which we in turn recycle into products with high added value. Most companies give these products as business and promotional gifts," says Alenka. "In the future, we plan to develop new products and use new innovative technologies to satisfy the increasing quantity of scrap materials.

By raising awareness and educating the public, we wish to achieve a wider understanding of sustainability, particularly as an opportunity for progress, integration and a better future for all."

  • Dve mali peresnici

    Trash for someone, a practical and beautiful gift for others. Photo: Smetumet archives

A meaningful gift of sustainability

In addition to being beautiful and practical, the SMETUMET Association’s products are also meaningful. They are a gift of awareness about behaving responsibly and caring for our planet. Everyone can contribute to reducing trash. We just need to think about it more and take small steps that will slowly lead us to our goal – preserving the planet for future generations.

"It does not matter whether the change is big or small, personal or systemic. As long as it is for the better, it is the right thing to do," is one of the mottoes of the Smetumet Association, which we would like to share with you in conclusion.

  • Reciklirana vrečka za sadje iz zaves.

    Recycled fruit and vegetables bags made from reused curtains. Photo: Smetumet archives

Author: Katja Križnar

Date: 19. December 2019

Time to read: 2 min