10-11th March, twenty four representatives of social enterprises from 10 countries across Europe met in Ghent, Belgium, to exchange best practices in the re-use sector and discuss the European Commission’s Circular Economy policy proposals. The RREUSE event, hosted by Komosie, the network of social enterprise re-use centres in Flanders, better known as “de Kringwinkel”, also included a site visit to one such enterprise, Ateljee.
Ateljee performs a wide spectrum of activities in re-use. A large workshop for repairing and testing the performance of used electronics including large and small household appliances, IT equipment, music players and other. The workshop is accompanied by a warehouse of spare parts harvested from old appliances, sorted and used for refurbishment. Ateljee also promotes green mobility by a project called trans-fair, where their bike repair workshop provides the whole range of services from bike rental, assembly and maintenance to services for electric bikes. A textile sorting centre and clothes boutique were presented also selling upcycled bags with their own brand “Gent Made”. Moreover Ateljee runs a social restaurant providing discounts for socially disadvantaged persons. All of the projects by Ateljee concern social employment and improvement in life quality of low-income households as well as sustainability and respect for the environment. Another socio-environmental organisation from Ghent presented was Labeur vzw, active in the building sector using environmentally sound materials.
The overall support for social economy activities in Ghent was given by a representative from the social department of the City of Ghent. In Ghent there are 19 social enterprises employing 2000 people. The local government actively advocates for social economy and supports the sector through subsidies and emphasis in public procurement procedures.