From pilot project to Upcycling Workshop
Naturally, we also create residual materials. Pure polyethylene and polyamide are transferred to plastics processing for the production of high grade secondary raw materials. However, the majority of the production waste at our Manufaktur ends up in residual waste bins. These are mainly made up of textile off-cuts, scraps and general remnants. Other instances: waste also accrues in our product service department when items are returned that can’t be repaired. In addition, there are old product prototypes and recyclable waste from the kitchen and logistics. More about waste
So, we asked ourselves how we could reuse these residual materials without any loss of value.
In 2016 we implemented a project to make shopping bags using material remnants from our Manufaktur in six sewing workshops by groups of refugees. We sold the bags at a sale event in the VAUDE store in Ravensburg and in our Metzingen outlet. The proceeds were donated to a joint project with the refugee program, Asylnetzwerk Tettnang. A market check showed that the bags were well received by consumers so we set up an Upcycling Workshop at the end of 2017, creating with two new jobs for refugees to produce the bags.
The Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (German Federal Environmental Foundation) is supporting the project with €70,000. This is matched by VAUDE with a further €70,000.
The funding project will run until July 2019, after which time we hope that the upcycling workshop operations will break even.
After successfully setting up the Upcycling Workshop in 2018, we integrated it into our Made in Germany factory at the beginning of 2019 where we can carry out the upcycling production more efficiently and our Upcycling Workshop employees are integrated into the Manufaktur team.
“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 reducing waste. The integration of affiliated companies and institutions will also create a platform for upcycling production. The project contributes significantly to the integration of refugees. They are offered in-depth insights into operational processes and given greater career prospects. I hope that the project will continue to develop successfully and inspire many to replicate it.”
Read more about our commitment to refugees here.
Leftover fabrics from our Manufaktur production facility are, of course, our most evident residual material. Since 1980, we have been producing backpacks, bike bags and lifestyle bags made of robust, durable materials directly at our company premises in our headquarters in Tettnang, southern Germany. More about it at – “Made in Germany”.
Instead of disposing of die-cut remnants and excess fabric that accumulates during production as we have in the past, we now sort and collect all the pieces that are large enough to be used to sew new products. We bring these materials directly to the newly established Upcycling Workshop where they are handcrafted into one-of-a-kind pieces. Based on the shopping bags from our first sewing workshops, we have created two design templates – one larger and one smaller bag – which are now sewn in the Upcycling Workshop.
In 2018 we upcycled approx. 900 kg of our own residual materials. For 2019 we expect a similar amount.
The bags have been available in the VAUDE Stores as well as in our factory outlet in Tettnang/Obereisenbach and the VAUDE Outlets since mid-March 2018, and since November 2018, they have also been available in other specialist shops.
Another upcycling product is a small bag that we produce for our cooperation partner iFixit. These bags are filled with practical sewing accessories such as needles, yarn, iron-on patches and tools, and will be sold as repair kits via the iFixit Shop.
We have planned additional upcycling products for 2019. For example, we will be producing ankle straps for cycling from smaller canvas remnants, which will be used as for a retail campaign.
The VAUDE stores are also active in upcycling. They send their old advertising banners to our upcycling workshop where they are used to create cool new bags that you haven been able to buy in the stores since March.
The new bags are the successor of our gym bags that had been produced from the advertising banners in a German sewing shop.
Find a list of our stores here
Since 2018 we have also been producing upcycled shopping bags and backpacks for the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei as part of a pilot project – using the outer shell of a decommissioned Zeppelin NT. Instead of disposing with this old shell, beautiful souvenirs are being created so that since the summer of 2018, fans of this famous airship have been able to buy these unique bags and packs from the Zeppelin shop in Friedrichshafen or online in the fan shop. We are continuing with this cooperation in 2019.
After establishing our Upcycling Workshop, we took a second step in 2018 and created an external upcycling community and material exchange together with other companies, schools and creative artists. Our goal is to create a platform that companies can use to make valuable residual materials available for upcycling projects. "Upcyclers" can then use these materials for their products and launch their projects onto the market.
Find out more about the community here
For several years we have worked with students from the Technisches Gymnasium Ravensburg on the development of a sustainable business model within the framework of the project “Umweltprofis von morgen” (Environmental champions of tomorrow). In 2016 and 2017 students came up with ideas for upcycling VAUDE material remnants. Read more here
In 2016, four students used recycled advertising banners and returned products that couldn't be repaired by our service department, and turned them into new bags that could be used as pencil cases or for cosmetics.
In 2017 another group of students designed a headphone case using remnant materials from our Manufaktur.
A Belgian school made costumes for a dance performance from VAUDE material remnants.
Bags made from VAUDE material remnants by a Catholic relief organization in Kralup by Moldau, Czech Republic
Gaiters made from VAUDE material remnants by a Catholic relief organization in Kralup by Moldau, Czech Republic
Material remnants also accrue in the production facilities that we subcontract to. When we have large amounts of remnants, we can use them to produce special one-off product models. Our producers use smaller leftover quantities for the training of new employees or training purposes. Starting with the Summer 2019 Collection, we will systematically record the leftover quantities per collection.
We also rely on upcycling from leftovers in the outfitting of our VAUDE Stores. For example, the curtains for the changing rooms are made out of leftover Packs 'n Bags materials. The clothes hanger labels for our sale items are also made from remnant materials.
Unfortunately, we still don't have a recycling option for smaller remnant amounts. This generally comes with significant effort and costs (such as those due to customs regulations) when processing them or bringing them to our headquarters. After we have built up our internal structure for upcycling and material exchange, we want to concentrate more intensively on this issue.
Currently about 82 % of waste in Germany is recycled*. Recycling waste means that the raw materials and energy are put back into the commercial cycle. The most common form of this recycling is the combustion of waste to produce energy. High quality waste is transformed into a lower quality product.** For this reason such processes are known as downcycling.
There are also more sustainable and more effective ways to re-use this waste than in elaborate downcycling processes. The idea is to create new products from waste that are equivalent or higher in value than the materials used. The transformation of “useless” waste into new items is known as upcycling.