Fruity fashion: Kenyan pineapple waste that used to be burnt made into shoes and bags

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. fertile / ˈfɜr tl / (adj.) – relating to land or soil that can produce abundant crops

    The fertile soil in the valley allowed farmers to grow a variety of crops throughout the year.

  2. plaudit / ˈplɔ dɪt / (n.) – strong approval, typically expressed publicly

    The team received plaudits from their manager for their exceptional performance in the competition.

  3. synthetic / sɪnˈθɛt ɪk / (n.) – a substance or material made by combining different artificial substances

    The company specializes in producing innovative synthetics that copy the texture of natural fabrics.

  4. venture / ˈvɛn tʃər / (n.) – a business project or activity, typically involving some risk, done with the expectation of making a profit

    Starting her own bakery was a risky venture, but it eventually became a successful business.

  5. biodegradable / ˌbaɪ oʊ dɪˈgreɪ də bəl / (adj.) – capable of being slowly destroyed and broken down into very small parts by natural processes, bacteria, etc.

    The company switched to biodegradable packaging to reduce its environmental impact.


Read the text below.

Pineapples: beloved by chefs–and cocktail makers–all over the world for bringing a reliable tropical sweetness. Now, an innovative firm in Kenya is gaining fans by turning waste from the fruit’s harvest into footwear. It comes as the fashion industry looks to embrace more eco-friendly materials.

Not just a prickly fruit–now also the raw ingredient for a sustainable textile that’s being revived by a design house in Kenya.

Pineapple farmers are able to generate a second income from leaves that were previously discarded and damaging to the environment. “In the past, we would burn or throw away or replant pineapple suckers. Later on, we met with this company called Pine Kazi. We sell one sucker to them at 15 Kenya shillings each (US $0.092),” says James Kinuthia, a long-time pineapple farmer in fertile Kiambu county.

The potential of the discarded leaves–a major part of the pineapple plant which is currently virtually unexploited–is now gaining global attention.

Pine Kazi, which converts pineapple leaf and recycles rubber into fashionable footwear, has already attracted the attention of investors and won plaudits for its sustainable credentials.

Pineapple fiber, which has a long history of use, is labor-intensive to produce and has until recently lost out in the era of cheap cotton and synthetics.

Co-founders Olivia Awuor, Mike Langat and Angela Nzomo say the idea was borne out of a university project. As 24-year-old students, they noticed huge piles of pineapple waste burning carelessly and turned their collective attention toward a solution.

“Pine Kazi is a new and innovative social business venture that recycles waste pineapple leaves into a biodegradable textile that is friendly to the environment,” explains Awuor, Pine Kazi CEO and co-founder.

As a social business venture, Pine Kazi also sources labor from local communities–hence creating employment. “We use these textiles to make eco-friendly fashion products like shoes and bags while creating meaningful and sustainable employment to vulnerable groups in the community,” Awuor says.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Why do you think environmental causes, such as turning agricultural waste into footwear, are gaining more support? Do you support environmental causes? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Pine Kazi has already attracted the attention of investors and won plaudits for its sustainable credentials. Do you think investors in your country would also be interested in sustainable and agricultural-based products? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Pine Kazi emphasizes using textiles to make eco-friendly fashion products while providing employment. In your opinion, should more businesses adopt the practice of sourcing labor from local communities, especially vulnerable groups? What potential benefits or challenges do you foresee (ex. benefit: community development, challenge: lack of skills)? Discuss.
  • In what other ways do you think local businesses would be able to make an impact in a community (ex. hosting workshops, sponsoring local events)? Do you think local businesses in your area are creating a positive impact in your community? What makes you say so? Discuss.