Four women from Sierra Leone with colourful bags with lions on it

From cement bag to fashion accessory

Used cement bags from Heidelberg Materials' subsidiary Leocem in Sierra Leone and traditional African fabrics are being redesigned into fashionable carrier bags – the eye-catcher of the season! The bags are waterproof and tear-resistant and can carry heavy loads. They are also an excellent example of upcycling.

A used cement bag upcyled into a fashionable carrier bag

Leocem is cooperating with German NGO Mahmoo e.V., which supports the SEVOC Vocational Center in Kamakwie town, 280 km from the capital Freetown. To assure a sustainable future for students that have finished school, Mahmoo e.V. has launched a graduate programme for tailors (SETRAC), where they are trained to start their own business. 

To create paid work for this graduate programme, which is also supported by the German Embassy in Freetown, Mahmoo e.V. chairpersons Marion von Oppeln and Lars Bessel started the Lionbags project.

Its aim is not only to help graduates earn money, but to create sustainable and socially responsible small local businesses. The young tailors use recycled Leocem plastic cement bags, upcycling them into beautiful bags with linings of fresh and vibrant African cotton fabrics.

They include an interior smartphone pocket, and the straps are designed for comfortable carrying over the shoulder or in the hand. Turned inside out, the bag can also be used with the colourful fabric on the outside and the sturdy, waterproof cement bag inside.

One challenge, especially given the pandemic restrictions, has been getting the finished bags to Germany. Another is to procure enough used Leocem cement bags due to regional lockdowns in Sierra Leone.

A seamstress lining bags with brightly colored fabrics

A crowd-funding project in Germany has financed the manufacture and sale of nearly 500 Lionbags. The young tailors from Sierra Leone are earning four times the average local income for their work – giving them real prospects for success in their home country while helping preserve their local environment. By producing the Lionbags, waste plastic is recycled, and fair jobs are being actively created in what is currently a very poor region.

For more information on Lionbags (in German only) or to order your own bag, go to the website