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Upcycling – because wasting would be wasteful

VAUDE launches upcycling workshop – a successful project for integration and sustainability

A whole mountain of material remnants in various bright colors and different sizes – Noura selects the right pieces and sews a stylish shopper bag from them. Noura Batrdouk originally fled from Syria and has been working in the newly founded upcycling workshop at VAUDE in Tettnang since January. With this project, outdoor gear supplier VAUDE not only shows how resources can be conserved and new products created from unused material, it also demonstrates how integration can be achieved and a successful business model can be launched “almost by itself”.

As any company that develops and manufactures products, VAUDE also produces leftover materials, especially in the VAUDE Manufaktur, its own production facilities at the company's headquarters in southern Germany. On this site, VAUDE has been producing backpacks, bike bigs and lifestyle bags since 1980, from robust, durable materials – all “Made in Germany”. As a sustainable company, VAUDE strives to minimize cutting surplus and production waste. As Lisa Fiedler from VAUDE Corporate Development explains, “Unfortunately, we cannot completely avoid accruing waste material and until now we often have had to dispose of it, although it was actually much too good to waste. This is truly wasteful and something we have set out to change.”

Upcycling Workshop launched

VAUDE has now launched a small, fine upcycling workshop true to the slogan “from remnants to raw materials” where creative ideas and skilled craftsmanship are put to work in manufacturing beautiful, practical products – each truly one-of-a-kind. Now instead of disposing of stamping residues and excess materials that accumulate during production as in the past, these are now carefully sorted and collected. All remnants large enough to be used to sew new products are brought directly to the newly established upcycling workshop. Here they are hand-crafted into one-of-a-kind shopper bags, in two different sizes and in various different color combinations. “As a result of this project, we are currently producing around 900 kg less residual waste per year, and are instead producing a number of great upcycling bags,” says Lisa Fiedler happily.

German Federal Foundation for the Environment (DBU) funds refugee project

It all began in 2016, when VAUDE offered sewing workshops for refugees to give them an insight into everyday working life. Shopper bags were produced from material remnants from the on-site company Manufaktur. The bags were offered for sale during a special promotional event and sold out in no time. All proceeds from this sale were donated to the Tettnang Asylum Network, who also supported the workshops. The feedback on this event was overwhelmingly positive, so the idea emerged to set up a long-term upcycling workshop with refugees. With the support of the German Federal Foundation for the Environment (DBU), who approved 70,000 euros in funding for the project in September 2017, the idea has now been put into practice. VAUDE has developed the necessary operational structure and hired Noura Batrdouk on a permanent basis. For the 36-year-old, who escaped from Syria in 2015 and who now speaks German very well, it is a wonderful opportunity for her to gain a foothold in working life. In her own country she was an arts and crafts teacher – now she brings her versatility and creativity to the upcycling workshop. In the meantime, another resettled refugee, also from Syria, has already been recruited for the project: Mahmoud Algasser, a trained tailor from Syria.

In addition to the initial investments for the upcycling workshop, the subsidies will also be used to create an upcycling community that VAUDE would like to set up together with partner companies. This will be designed to serve as a material exchange platform and generate ideas for new upcycling products and collaborations.

“By implementing an upcycling production process coupled with the development of a new business model, VAUDE is opening up new opportunities for value creation while at the same time saving resources and avoiding waste. The integration of affiliated companies and institutions will also create a platform for up-cycling productions.” Dr. Maximilian Hempel, from the DBU, sees this development extremely positively: “The project contributes significantly to the integration of refugees. They are offered in-depth insights into operational processes and professional perspectives. I hope that the project will continue to develop successfully and inspire many to imitate it.”

Shopping bags available in VAUDE stores

These stylish and sturdy upcycling bags are ideal for urban strolls and leisurely pursuits, so smaller or larger shopping sprees can be stowed away comfortably while making both a social and fashion statement. Beginning in mid-March 2018, the bags will initially be available in VAUDE Stores and VAUDE factory outlets. Over the course of the year, sales promotions with our retailers will follow. VAUDE Stores:

Bags from original Zeppelin hull

The upcycling project has already generated enormous interest. As part of a further pilot project, VAUDE will also soon be producing upcycling bags and backpacks for the German Zeppelin shipping company in Friedrichshafen. The Zeppelin NT's outer shell will be used as material. Instead of disposing of this old hull, beautiful souvenirs will soon be created, so that fans of this famous airship will be able, presumably already in summer 2018, to buy these unique bags and packs directly from the Zeppelin Shop in Friedrichshafen or online in the fan shop.

Collaboration with iFixit

VAUDE also produces an upcycling product for its cooperation partner iFixit, the leading international online platform for repair instructions and spare parts: a small bag filled with practical sewing accessories such as needles, yarns, patches and tools, and sold as a repair set on the iFixit shop:


More about upcycling at VAUDE:

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