Trash at its best
A hoodie out of rough material, 100% recycled and stylish – the head-turner of the Recyclist workshop. No other product can convey the ideas of the Trash Up! Festival better, which successfully debuted on 12 and 13 November 2016 in the Depot in Dortmund. This upcycling festival focused on innovative strategies for waste prevention and intelligent ways to re-use materials.
ökoRAUSCH was there as a cooperation partner – and with good reason! We want to strengthen the scene for creative event organisers who have successfully formulated inspiring goals to help transform society into an environmentally friendly and socially responsible one. I am happy to present the Trash Up! Festival here in our current special “Sustainable Design Made in NRW”.
From the very beginning, you could just feel the dynamics that came into play for the Trash Up! team when they planned the upcycling festival, which was to take place in the former street car depot in the north of Dortmund: For the makers of die urbanisten and the Depot e.V. team, it wasn’t just about initiating a market for upcycling products, it was more about getting a message across: to establish upcycling as an expression of innovative strategies to deal with finite resources. Their message came across in a very refreshing way, without wagging their finger. The festival was full of power and diverse activities that invited the visitors to get involved.
As a cooperation partner, I was especially interested in what kind of audience the festival attracted and how the organisers involved the visitors in the activities. And of course as a designer it was especially important to me to get a closer look at what the exhibitors did regarding the topic of upcycling in the context of ecological and fair production.
It was really interesting to see who came to check out the Trash Up! Festival. There were, of course, visitors who were obviously part of the “alternative scene”, but there were also a remarkable number of visitors who seemed to have just got done going shopping on Dortmund’s strolling promenade. The Trash Up! Festival successfully attracted not only people who were already interested in topics such as waste prevention, recycling or resource-efficient products. Thanks to the diverse range of activities they offered – both intellectual and practical – and just the right amount of shopping opportunities, they were able to reach a large audience. The festival organisers can pride themselves on this successful mix.
FROM ACTION TO KNOWLEDGE
Something that positively stood out for me was that the Trash Up! Festival put great emphasis on a diverse and interesting programme. The many workshops, presentations and film presentations got visitors excited about the topics and ensured that everyone found an activity they enjoyed. These activities were a fun way to introduce alternatives to mass consumption and a throwaway society and, at the same time, promote awareness of the fact that it’s worth the effort to work toward societal transformations to help form an environmentally friendly, socially equitable society.
VARIETY IS KEY
I got the impression that the Trash Up! Festival brought together a lively mix of design professionals and upcyclers. For a long time now, encountered material has been inspiring designers and autodidacts alike to create new things, but sometimes they don’t always share the same approach. The more professional the approach to using valuable resources, the more carefully are creating designers products out of the left over materials of our consumer society.
When old maps are turned into buttons and skateboards are re-born as rings, the memory of the original material is especially vivid. But because the materials are pretty limited in their new form, the symbolic value is often more important than the actual use of the recycled product. The focus of this “simple dimension of upcycling” is simply the joy of giving supposed garbage another chance to become something valuable again. The one-of-a-kind character is what fascinates designers and potential customers alike. The Trash Up! Festival, however, looked for exhibitors who also had a message to convey with their products, to make people reflect on our throwaway society.
As a designer, I of course search for the “second dimension of upcycling”. For me, there is a difference between someone having implemented an intelligent production strategy and someone that made something primarily because they were fascinated by the original material. For example, if someone wants to go into series production with a certain product, then it is necessary to analyse the properties of the material and see if it is actually ecologically reasonable to reuse the material.
I would like to point out that now that upcycling is becoming more popular, it is more important than ever to critically think about the use and reprocessing of materials and to produce new products as intelligently as possible. If components are combined in a way that makes it impossible to dispose of them in an environmentally sound way, for example if parts are glued together so you cannot separate them or if they are coated with resin, then nothing has been gained in the name of environmentally friendly production. And if silver or other precious metals are used as the foundation for new creations but the origin of the metal cannot be proven and there is even the suspicion that they come from a mine that exploits its miners, then the well-meaning attempt is quite meaningless. And you should be critical with regards to things that can be hazardous to your health: bicycle tubes and printed circuit boards shouldn’t come into direct contact with skin, for example.
In my opinion, it is important to get experts on board who can act as consultants to producers with their scientifically proven expertise. Because, especially on a booming market, it will be more than necessary to convey this serious message with 100% environmentally friendly products.
TO SUM IT UP
It’s refreshing to see event organisers who position themselves but don’t do so in a moralising way: pointing out wrongs without catastrophizing things and instead being enthusiastic about educating people about their alternatives and how they can take action. The more than 1,800 visitors were obviously impressed by what the festival had to offer. I for one was impressed when 80 people came to hear a presentation on the possibilities and problems of upcycling and stuck around to have a lively discussion afterwards on the pros and cons. I think the Trash Up! Festival succeeded in really getting people hooked on the topic of upcycling, which can surely be attributed to the festival organisers’ authenticity and palpable involvement. Congratulations to the Trash Up! Tream on a successful premier!
THE WHO’S WHO OF TRASH UP!
Chris van der Elv Limited Edition
Pieces of the city
OI by Thomas Jander
Tribe am Leib
Tanz auf Ruinen
Credit, all photos: Dunja Karabaic