Upcycled Jeans Cases – various assembly stages

Google-Serve 2017

Upcycled Jeans Cases – various assembly stages

Every year, I have the opportunity to spend the day helping some social cause. This year, I spent a morning helping at social fabric, an association that helps refugees with sewing classes. We spent the morning building make-up cases which will serve as reward for a crowd-funding campaign later this year. The cases are built from recycled jeans, so our tasks where to cut up old jeans and sew them into the basic part of the case’s hull.

I really liked this project, I usually select projects where I can do something with my hands and don’t involve coding and I had done any serious sewing in ages, I learnt how to use a sewing machine in primary school, but this is really a long time ago. This association was also well prepared to handle our group: up-cycling is a labor intensive task, which can be well handled by a group, and we were organised in groups that performed the various stages of the assembly. Using our work to boot-strap a crowd-funding campaign was a smart way of using the available staff.

Recycling jeans might sound like a trivial operation, but this is something than cannot be done at scale, you need to find good areas in the jeans to cut the pieces, you get more by removing the sewn elements, like pockets, but this is even more work, we had sewing machines, but no un-sewing machines. This is a shame because the elements of fabric behind the pockets yield the most interesting patterns, the stitched areas are darker as they were protected from the washing. This is similar to what happens with bags, the interesting ones are cut on some pattern of the truck’s tarp.

One of the organisers asked me if I was considering buying a sewing machine, I had to admit that they are cool, if I had the space and time to learn to use them properly, I certainly would. All in all this was an excellent Google Serve, I just felt it was a tad short, I could have done a full day, in particular as this one was really close to home. I look forward to next year.


Cosmetic Symbols


Regular readers of this blog know that I am fascinated by the various symbols and icons found in our everyday life. In Europe, you will often find the following symbols: ℮ period after opening symbol green dot symbol. The first symbol typically follows a weight or volume indication, the second usually contains a number followed by an ‘M’ letter, the last can be found on many types of packaging. What do they mean?

The first symbol is the , the symbol is defined by the European Union, and has its own Unicode character (0x212E). It specifies the precision of the quantity specified on the container. The way this is defined is a bit smarter than just a tolerance, the standard also specifies that the average quantity in a batch of the product cannot be less than the quantity indicated on the packaging. This ensures that producers do not systematically fill the product at the lower end of the error tolerance. Consider a product manufacturer which can produce packages with a 2 ml precision, if the tolerance is 5% and the package is 200 ml, then they could systematically fill the bottles with 192 ml, and always be within the 5% error margin. A very long time ago, I worked in a factory counting machine parts, and this is exactly what happened with packages of screws.

period after opening symbol

The second symbol is the symbol, for products that have very long shelf live (say shampoo), it specifies how long the product can be used after opening the container, in months. So if your shampoo bottle has a 12M mark, it can be used one year after opening.

green dot symbol

The third symbol is the green dot, it does not mean that the packaging is recycled, or recyclable, just that the producer joined the green dot scheme, which basically means he paid some fees. Depending on the country, packaging with that symbol can be put into a separate trash – this is not the case in Switzerland.

Period After Opening (PAO) symbol – Public Domain.
The “Green Dot” – Public Domain.

Recyclage de PET


Une des meilleures manières de comprendre quelque chose est d’essayer de l’expliquer. Le recyclage est une activité quelque peu baroque en Suisse, différente matières sont collectées à des moments et des endroits différents – en même temps, les sacs à ordures sont assez lourdement taxés à Zürich, donc cela vaut la peine de recycler.

J’ai donc entrepris d’écrire une sorte de Pierre de Rosette avec les différent codes et symboles utilisé pour marquer les différentes substances à recycler. Ce faisant, j’ai découvert quelque chose : il n’y a pas de recyclage de polytéréphtalate d’éthylène, communément appelé PET (symbole de recyclage ♳). Je vivais moi-même dans l’erreur et l’ignorance. Les autochtones me rétorqueront que c’est faux qu’il y a partout des points de collecte pour le PET, ce n’est pas exactement vrai, car en Suisse le recyclage du PET est restreint à un sous-groupe bien défini : les boissons.

Le PET est utilisé dans de nombreux autres emballages : barquettes de fruit, coques de plats préparés, salades, même les coques d’ampoules électriques et certains produits électroniques sont emballés dans du PET. La raison pour ce recyclage plus restreint tient fondamentalement à la pureté du matériaux, qui sera utilisé dans des emballages de bouteilles.

D’un côté avoir un cycle fermé pour le recyclage d’une matière est une bonne chose: les bouteilles sont recyclées en bouteilles, alors que souvent le PET est recyclé dans d’autres plastiques moins purs. De l’autre avoir un système de recyclage séparé du reste du monde prête à confusion, seules les bouteilles produites en Suisse portent le logo de recyclage de boissons de PET.