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The constant increases in the amount of waste and wasting of various materials and energy is causing a number of debates, actions and reactions. One of them is production with the help of upcycling. What is upcycling?

To put it simply, it is re-use and processing of a material or product not back into the same form (recycling), but into a higher class—i.e. creation of a new product. Material that would otherwise be dumped is processed. In an ideal case at the end of a product’s lifecycle there should be high quality materials for the production of new products. Resources remain in the cycle and this stops waste from arising. This trend is a response to consumption behaviour by users and bears fruit primarily for manufacturers. As the world’s population rises, the transition from the consumption of resources to their recovery is becoming more and more important.

Experts’ forecasts are such that over the next decade industrialised societies will work on improvements in the use of available resources and on the transformation of their industrial production—on material cycles with a closed loop. Manufacturers and designers are working on innovative processes that, to a marked extent, reduce the use of resources and energy at all levels. Recycling is changing into upcycling and waste products are being transformed into materials with specific properties. Resources move in a cycle both biologically and technically. It’s an ideal concept for industrial culture in the 21st century.

The fact that upcycling is a global trend also in housing, interiors and design is confirmed by exhibitions at global fairs. Last year at the Interzum fair in Cologne the topic was the main accompanying programme, entitled Circular Thinking. There was a special show by designers and manufacturers entitled “From Upcycling to Biofabrication”, which was curated by Dr. Sascha Peters. Approx. 100 exhibits on an area of 500 m2 were visible.

This direction was confirmed by the REMADE exhibition, which was part of an accompanying programme on Theme Park trends at the Heimtextil fair in Frankfurt am Main. It was not finished products that were presented, but materials that were made using upcycling. We select a sample of the most interesting products and materials that were visible at both exhibitions.

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