From Pepper Waste to Beauty Products

May 10, 2023

28 April 2023, Medveđa – What is the connection between ajvar (pepper spread) and cosmetics, and how pepper waste could be used to make soap or facial mask were among the things learned by all those attending today’s workshop organised by the "Zavičaj u tegli" (Home in a jar) enterprise and the "Bio Ideas for Sustainable Development" association, held in the village of Gazdare. 

This free of charge training was organised with the support of the "EU for Green Agenda in Serbia" project and the Municipality of Medveđa, with a wish to emphasise, in this area where growing pepper for the production of ajvar is the predominant activity, the importance of decreasing the amount of bio-waste in protecting the environment, as well as for economic empowerment and promoting quality of life for women in rural areas and underdeveloped parts of Serbia.

"The production of 1 kg of ajvar results in generating 1 kg of pepper waste. Our idea is to reuse this waste and thus prevent it from reaching landfills. Simultaneously, we enable local women entrepreneurs and farms to generate additional income from this new product," said Jelena Miletić, founder of the "Zavičaj u tegli" company.

Ana Mitić Radulović, coordinator of the project in the field of circular economy within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says that this manner of reusing biological waste is inventive and highly useful, as all the waste generated in producing ajvar is recycled, and adds: "On top of that, social and women’s entrepreneurship is thus developed, and a network of mutually connected actors oriented towards one another is created, which is all in line with the principles of circular economy and sustainability."

Participants of the workshop were acquainted, theoretically and in practise, with the entire process of producing cosmetics out of pepper waste, from collecting and drying, thus getting the new raw material, to making natural soap and facial masks.

"This activity is highly interesting and nice and it means so much to me as it enables me to make money in the period when there is not much else to do. Since we live in villages, in the winter and during other periods when there is no other work to be done, this additional income is very welcome. The women I work with belong to the category of hardly employable. These are women who have lost their jobs and now have problems in finding another job, or whose pensions are really low. We here socialise, and it is great, in addition to this social component, to be able to do something useful and get income that would help our families," said Dragana Stojković from the village of Gazdare, who has been cooperating with the "Zavičaj u tegli" company for three years now.

The workshop organised in the village of Gazdare is one of the activities within the project entitled "Industrial Symbiosis – an Innovative Strategy in Sustainability of Women Social Entrepreneurs’ Operation", that were awarded, in addition to 15 innovative green transition solutions, within the "EU for Green Agenda in Serbia" initiative. This initiative is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, with technical and financial support by the European Union, in partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and in cooperation with the Embassy of Sweden and the European Investment Bank (EIB), where additional funding has been provided by the governments of Sweden, Switzerland and Serbia.