What is çöp(m)adam?
In the ten minutes it takes to read this entry, 5.000.000 tons of waste will be produced worldwide. When it comes to reducing environment impacts, nothing is more important to us than growing and living sustainably with our planet.
“çöp” means “garbage” in Turkish; “madam”, the same as the French word indicates. “çöp(m)adam” (Garbage Ladies) is symbolic of this meaning – taking garbage and turning it into something fashionable and fun.
Women who have never worked for salary before are our employees. They transform throw-away material – upcycle, recycle, re-use and so on, into cool and useful items that are sold in our workshop, in boutiques in Turkey, and abroad, or in cooperation with multinational companies.
Acknowledging that there is an awful lot of excess packaging that comes with living in the modern world, and not having the energy to stop that on a mass scale, we decided to lessen the struggle and make something positive out of what could be negative. We use irregular or discontinued packaging from multinational companies, ie, instant soup, salad dressings, ketchup or mayonnaise. We also completely recycle potato chip, cookie and cake packaging! Vinyl banners from advertising, metal bottle caps from various beverages, plastic bags, grain/flour sacks are among the materials we utilise for our products.
çöp(m)adam was started as a limited company in the summer of 2008, with sponsorship from Sabanci University and Unilever. To date, we have worked with more than 400 women. Many women who trained with us have left us to go on to work part or full-time jobs. While we are sorry they are no longer working with us, we are pleased that they gained enough self-confidence and support from their families to do more than what we can offer.
On average, we save at least 6 tons of waste from going to land-fill annually with sales of 4,000 plus items.
Friends of çöp(m)adam
This large denim company sends us meters and meters of denim that they are unable to use pretty much whenever we request! We use this fabric as the base for many of our purses, small bags and wallets and even aprons.
Ege Deniz Tekstil
This was the first company to produce organic thread and fabric in Turkey. They donate scraps of fabric to us that we turn into bags or baskets.
Since we started, çöp(m)adam has had corporate partnerships. Initially, we started with Sabanci University, who helped us get started and whose connections helped us get word out. For four years, we also partnered with Unilever, who provided us with materials they could not use as well as some financial support to pay our rent. We have partnered with Turkish companies, such as Ülker, for supplies as well as orders. Orta Anadolu keeps us supplied with denim that is ever so slightly damaged – not good for their use but great for ours! For the past four years now, we have been partnering with Coca-Cola, at several different levels. They order from us on a regular basis, for Coca-Cola stores in the United States as well as the Milan Expo. The most important connection we have with Coca-Cola is under the 5 x 20 program, which aims to bring 5 million women out of poverty by the year 2020.
Tara Hopkins has worked, voluntarily and professionally, in civil society since she was a teenager. Academically, she studied anthropology and languages, but her main interests have always been greater equality and empowerment from a grass-roots level. She was fortunate to be able to establish the first program for civic participation at the university level in Turkey, as well as initiate the Ashoka program as the first country representative. She has taken her idealism to a different level now, down to the trash can, at long last acknowledging that some things cannot completely change but they can be modified.
Melih Özsöz dedicated much time and effort to çöp(m)adam as an official business partner for many years and we are still grateful to him!