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Innovative product design. Upcycling; A bridge to 0% waste.

Innovative product design. Upcycling; A bridge to 0% waste.

Waste is burying us.

Let me tell you something about waste: Just in Europe, each of us produces in average 500 kg of household rubbish every year. This comes down to around 3 billion tons of waste every year. Those are dramatic numbers if we consider that they are increasing every year and also our waste every time is more complex to treat.

Worried? Asking yourself how can we make to reverse this issues? Well, we can treat waste in different ways depending how smart we can think. For example, we can put it all on a big heap, let it rot, burry it once in a while, not really adding value to anything, just to feed nearby rats. Getting a bit more from waste is by burning it, so we can have some energy. However, the potential of the material is gone to ashes. Then comes recycling, try to collect the material, melt/shredder/or break it into smaller parts, and turn it back into a treatable raw material. Nevertheless, some materials (like paper, or stone) are down-cycled when trying to recycle them. So the value becomes less and less.

What can we do with the waste? 

The best thing, of course, is to prevent the use of a material that has to be thrown away. But we are driven by economic gain, not by producing less waste (unless this has an economical benefit). We, at Tolhuijs, want to show that there is a step before recycling: up-cycling. Use the waste material as it is. Add value to the material by using it as another (design) product. In the end, if you really can not use the material anymore, recycle it.

Recycling vs. Upcycling So what is the exact difference?

We can help in different ways to deal with this serious problem by recycling and up-cycling waste. However, these practices don’t have the same meaning, neither the same impact. We are convinced that up-cycling is recycling 2.0.

When recycling you collect the individual waste material, and process it to a raw source material, to be used again. Like re-melting old glass bottles, into new glass bottles; energy is used for this recycling process.  Next to the energy usage, also the quality of the material will be degraded, like for paper, cart-board, stone, etc.

In the other hand, up-cycling goes one step higher, reusing an object with very little waste or energy in the process, and extending the life of the material. For those reasons up-cycling beats recycling. When we up-cycle waste, we try to look for new ways to repurpose the component, and try to give it more value than the original material has had.

Upcycling at Tolhuijs.

Let’s look at Tolhuijs products. Our partner supplier is a manufacturer of wood products. They use wood as the raw material to produce useful things, for example: Train parts, pallets, etc. After usage, or during production, an amount of  wood waste is inevitable generated. When wood turns in waste, its main purpose is gone. Even if material still has the same quality features, the remaining (waste) material has no value for the manufacturer. It is costly to be managed, stored or transformed.

At Tolhuijs we look for a purpose to take advantage of this materials. After our social manufacturing process, we have increased the value of the wood waste, we created a completely new product with a unique story and design, but without damaging the quality of the materials, and without using high amounts of energy for a recycling process.

Upcycling needs creativity.

Tolhuijs objective is to excel in creative thinking in material re-use, to give a new purpose with higher value to different waste materials. We are convinced that up-cycling is the bridge between recycling and 0% waste. Therefore, we need to think different, be creative, and open-minded. Recycling is limited, but for Upcycling the limit is our imagination.

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