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UPCYCLING

Going circular is neither easy
nor cheap, but it is a commitment.

October 2023

Dear Rigetta Klint,

I am a product developer in a company called u p c y. An abbreviation of ‘upcycling’.

Our mission is to help Textilia (formerly De forenede Dampvaskerier [DFD, Associated Steam Laundries]) to become 100% circular by 2025. We aim to give all their discarded fabrics – about one ton a day – a new life. Nothing is to be incinerated.
One man’s vision is making all the difference. His name is Anders Thorgaard, he is the owner of Textilia, and as he puts it, ‘We can’t afford not to clean up after ourselves.’


Going circular is neither easy nor cheap, but it is a commitment.


I think it is important to tell the story of how large companies can change and develop if the will is there.

Would you like to visit?
Sincerely, designer Birgit Stielau

 

 

I accepted the invitation,
and a few days ago, I drove to Skovlunde where u p c y is based.

I recall that some years ago, designer Klaus Samsø worked with DFD to have shirts made for his collection from rejected tablecloths and sheets. He was a trailblazer.

Since then, the initiative has been scaled up and is no longer about a small production of shirts for private customers but about large amounts of working clothes for staff at hotels, restaurants and healthcare facilities and for the organization’s own staff of more than 2,000.

My job,’ says Birgit Stilau, as we visit the large storage hall with multiple pallet crates full of used textiles, ‘is to find out what the fabrics can become in their next life.

These are quality fabrics that, on average, are laundered 200–300 times before they are discarded .

Then they are upcycled and get a new life in the form of Textilia upcy-products, which are of sufficient quality to replace conventional products that would otherwise have to be made from virgin fabric.’

Textilia’s own staff wear u p c y shirts, jackets and vests.

Shirts for cooks and waiters in gourmet restaurants are one of the prestige products,’ says Birgit. ‘They are front-runners and embraced the idea early.

Another example is fibre duvets from hospitals that are turned into jackets and vests. They were a popular item in the cold outdoor Covid test centres.’

Production takes place in Lithuania, in a factory Birgit knew from earlier work in the fashion industry. When it was at risk of closure in 2020, due to the crisis following the Covid-19 pandemic, u p c y bought it. From the pieces she shows me, I can see that the quality of work from the 25 employees is top-notch.

Our latest product is a multi-use hood for the food industry. It is made from a fabric we had 300 pallet crates of and didn’t know what to do with,’ Birgit explains. ‘The company u p c y is small and agile. Usually, that’s a good thing, although sometimes, practical tasks can get in the way of development efforts, but that is unavoidable.

I refer directly to Anders Thorgaard. Our work with Textilia is organized around a product council, where all requests and needs are discussed.

There must be some products you cannot find a new use for?

Pillow cases are one example,’ says Birgit. ‘Now, we use them as a packaging material in the laundries.

In the working clothes division, there are also fabrics we can’t upcycle. Instead, they are downcycled in France and Turkey and used to make new materials.

The same applies to our upcycled pieces. When these products are worn out after being laundered many, many times, they, too, are downcycled.

The process of pulling old fabrics into fibres to make new ones is rapidly developing, and it is not my specialty; nor is the composition of products made from virgin materials. My area of expertise is dealing with the materials that can be reused.

For me as a designer, that’s an interesting approach. This project is not about my personal vanity but about making a difference for the world.

 

Do I need to add that I was a slightly more optimistic about the green transition when I left than when I came!

Kære Rigetta Klint

Jeg er produktudvikler i et firma som hedder u p c y. Forkortelse af upcycling.
Vores opgave er at hjælpe Textilia (forhenværende De forenede Dampvaskerier) med at blive 100% cirkulær i 2025. Vi skal give alle deres kasserede tekstiler – omkring 1 ton om dagen – et nyt liv. Intet må brændes.

Det er én mands visionære tanke som gør hele forskellen. Han hedder Anders Thorgaard og ejer Textilia, og som han siger: “vi har ikke råd til at lave være med at rydde op efter os selv.”

Det er hverken nemt eller billigt at blive cirkulær, men det er en beslutning.

Jeg synes det er vigtig at fortælle historien om at store firmaer kan ændres og udvikles hvis viljen er til stede.

Har du lyst til at komme på besøg?
Venlig hilsen, designer Birgit Stielau

Jeg takkede ja til invitationen og kørte forleden til Skovlunde hvor u p c y har til huse.

Jeg erindrer at designer Klaus Samsø for år tilbage var i et samarbejde med DFD [De Forenede Dampvaskerier]) og fik syet skjorter til sin kollektion af kasserede duge og lagner. Han banede vejen.

Siden er projektet opskaleret, det handler ikke længere om et mindre antal skjorter til private kunder, men om meget store mængder personalebeklædning til hoteller, restauranter, sundhedspersonale og om personalebeklædning til organisationens mere end 2000 egne medarbejdere.

”Mit arbejde”, siger Birgit Stilau, da vi besigtiger den store lagerhal med pallekasse efter pallekasse fyldt med brugte tekstiler, ”er at finde ud af hvad tekstilerne kan blive til i deres næste liv.

Der er tale om kvalitetstekstiler som gennemsnitlig vaskes 2-300 gange inden de kasseres.

Herefter upcycles tekstilerne og for et nyt liv i form af Textilia upcy-produkter som har kvalitet til at erstatte konventionelle produkter, som ellers skulle være syet af jomfrutekstiler”.

”Textilias eget personale er klædt i u p c y skjorter, lakker og veste.

Skjorter til kokke og tjenere på gourmetrestauranter er et af prestigeprodukterne”, forklarer Birgit, ”de er frontløbere og har tidligt syntes om ideen.

Et andet eksempel er dynetæpper fra hospitalerne som bliver syet om til jakker og veste, de var populære i de kolde Covid-testcentre”.

Produktionen foregår i Lithauen på en systue Birgit havde kendskab til fra tidligere ansættelser i modebranchen. Da systuen i 2020 affødt af Covidkrisen var lukningstruet, købte u p c y den. Jeg konstaterer ved selvsyn at kvaliteten på det arbejde de 25 ansatte leverer er i top.

”Vores seneste produkt er en flergangs hætte til fødevareindustrien, den er fremstillet af et tekstil som vi havde 300 pallekasser af, som vi ikke vidste hvad vi skulle bruge til”, forklarer Birgit og fortsætter, ”u p c t her i Skovlunde er en flad og agil organisation og jeg  kan derfor vende skuden hurtigt, det er godt for det meste, indimellem står de lavpraktiske gøremål i vejen for udviklingsarbejdet, men sådan må det være.

Jeg referer direkte til Anders Thorgaard og samarbejdet med Textilia er organiseret i et produktråd hvor alle ønsker og behov diskuteres”.

Der må være produkter I ikke kan finde genanvendelse for?

”Pudebetræk er et eksempel”, siger Birgit. ”De bliver nu brugt som indpakning på vaskerierne.

I arbejdstøjsdivisionen er der også tekstiler som vi ikke kan upcycle – de bliver down-cyclet i Frankrig og Tyrkiet og bliver til nyt materiale.

Det samme glæder det vi har upcyclet. Når de produkter er udtjente efter mange, mange vask, så downcyles de også.

Netop opkradsningen og fremstilling af nye tekstiler af gamle er et område som står over for stor udvikling og det er ikke mit speciale. Kompositionerne i de vare som bliver fremstillet af jomfrumaterialer, er heller ikke mit område. Jeg tager mig af at rydde op i det som kan genanvendes.

Som designer er det en interessant måde at arbejde på. Projektet handler ikke om min forfængelighed men om at gøre en forskel for verden”.

 

Behøver jeg at skrive at jeg var en lille smule mere optimistisk på den grønne omstillings vegne da jeg gik, end da jeg kom!

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