Damaged, out of style or no longer wanted?
Upcycling, at Opwaarts, means that the value of something that at first could no longer be "done," goes up significantly with a few edits. Daan: "I started to specialize in upcycled things with a story.
During the lecture, he shows telling examples of this, made by himself and others. 'And the nice thing is that it can also be off. Like a series of colorful design clocks, only when you look closely you see what they are made of: from lids of Tupperware containers from the thrift store. Another upcycle classic is a table made from a fire hose reel. Daan has noticed that people like having something in their home with a story.
That includes large organizations. As a documentary filmmaker, he has made storytelling his profession. When the NOS needed furniture for a new studio, a container of completely new furniture first showed up right next to a container of old furniture. Daan then asked himself, "Can't we reduce one with the other? Can't we just make furniture out of that one container in the future, then we won't have to haul in as much new stuff? We did an experiment with desks. The old desks just stayed in place. At night, we unscrewed the desktops, and put the new tops from reused material on them. This was much faster than ordering completely new desks. The old tops made of rock-hard trespa, a rainproof material, are now incorporated into storage cabinets for a vegetable garden.
Upward adopts local waste stream
For each thing and type of material, Daan and his team see what they can do with it. His colleague is a woodworker, who 'conjures up' old planks as if they were new, by running them through the thicknessing bench. And beech bed slats go into a steam cabinet, so that they can be bent into beautiful shapes for lamps or benches, for example. What he wants to give to students in vmbo to practical education: Things made from recycled materials are worth more. People are willing to pay more for them. Because these are unique crafted items with a local history.
Like the concrete plywood panels used in the construction of the Amali Tunnel in Hilversum. He made table tops from them for a large caterer. Concrete plywood is expensive, and it is used only once on construction sites all over the Netherlands to pour concrete, then it is waste. But not at Opwaarts. A short text about previous function of the plates was engraved into the sleekly painted concrete plywood tables with a router.
People really appreciate that combination: beautiful things made from rescued materials, preferably with the origin still visible. Daan sums up his case for working with reclaimed materials. If you wouldn't want to do it just for the environment, there are still plenty of reasons.
Some questions from teachers
Does Opwaarts also work with education?
That is not happening yet, but it can certainly have benefits for everyone. Daan has since learned many tricks for making materials reusable, such as for de-nailing. Those tricks are useful to pass on to students.
How does Opwaarts get all these used supplies and materials?
A "whole army of scouts" has now formed, of people who app Opwaarts when there is a dumpster of valuable materials on the streets of Hilversum. But Daan has plenty of ideas for saving more stuff from the incinerator. It would be nice if environmental waste sites could have makers watching what gets dumped. They have a trained eye for stuff and materials still suitable for a second life. Opwaarts is going to do a trial with 15 makers at the environmental street. And really, all kinds of materials should not go into the landfill at all. Cool long boards that have already been cut to car lengths are no longer the valuable boards you almost could have had. A collection list with a phone number or contact address of a collection spot like Opwaarts on every garbage truck in the country is the idea.
Want to know more about Opwaarts' methods, watch the movie.
Also join the online meetings for vmbo and practical education teachers
Are you working as a teacher or school leader in vmbo or practical education? Join the conversation with colleagues from around the country and be inspired to practically shape more sustainability in schools. Check the calendar for the next meeting!
Credits: image from comic strip by Liesbeth Ton aka Betje Comics for Opwaarts