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Vaude Launches New Upcycling Workshop to Advance Circularity

Integration and sustainability are coming together in Vaude’s latest upcycling workshop, which has set out to both boost circularity and improve working conditions for refugees.

The sportswear and gear company, which produces goods made from recycled materials, opened the upcycling workshop in Germany, where refugees create one-of-a-kind and recycled products.

Rather than disposing excess materials from past production, Vaude sorts, collects and uses these materials to sew new products in the upcycling workshop, including shopper bags. Starting mid-March, the upcycle workshop’s shopper bags will be available to purchase at Vaude stores and Vaude factory outlets in Europe.

“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,” Lisa Fiedler of Vaude’s corporate development arm said. “As a result of this project, we are currently producing around 900 kilograms [nearly 2,000 pounds] less residual waste per year and are instead producing a number of great upcycling bags.”

Vaude’s integration-meets-sustainability mission started in 2016 when it began holding sewing workshops for refugees. At the workshops, refugees used material remnants from Manufaktur, Vaude’s Germany-based production site, to develop shopper bags. The bags were well received by the greater community, prompting Vaude to establish a long-term upcycling workshop for refugees.

With support from the German Federal Foundation for the Environment (DBU), which donated $85,723 to the project last September, Vaude was able to introduce the workshop this month. So far, two Syrian refugees are working at the upcycling workshop, a women who previously worked as an art teacher and a man who worked as a tailor. In addition to employing refugees, subsidies from the upcycling workshop will be used to create a new upcycling community, where Vaude and other industry-related companies will collaboratively form a material exchange platform and generate additional sustainability initiatives.

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“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 project contributes significantly to the integration of refugees. They are offered in-depth insights into operational processes and professional perspectives,” said Dr. Maximilian Hempel from the DBU. “I hope that the project will continue to develop successfully and inspire many to imitate it.”

Vaude is also developing another pilot project that will produce upcycled bags and backpacks for Zeppelin, a shipping company in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Instead of discarding previously used materials, the materials will be reused to create souvenirs for fans of Zeppelin’s NT air ship. Starting this summer, consumers can buy these products at the Zeppelin Shop in Friedrichshafen or online at Zeppelin’s fan shop.