TRANSFORM-CE was presented to a worldwide audience at the first hybrid International Upcycling Network Conference (IUNC) on 28 October 2021. TRANSFORM-CE was proud to be invited to share its objective of helping businesses recycle and upcycle single-use plastics (SUPs) in an effort to stimulate a circular economy and a market for recyclates and thus reduce the burden of plastic pollution on the environment. The conference was part of the International Circular Economy Week.
The first IUNC shared the wealth of practical knowledge gained over the years by the UPZENT Upcycling Center research project. Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) defines UPZENT – that stands for Upcycling Centre Neunkirchen – as a participatory business model that raises awareness and works towards a resource-efficient circular economy. UPZENT works with designers and craftsmen to design and create products from recyclates, and works with the AQA (the region’s non-profit employment and qualifications company) to include unemployed people and migrants in the production process. It is thus Germany’s premiere upcycling initiative that not only promotes the circular economy and social entrepreneurship, but also several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The UPZENT project leader, the Institute of Applied Material Flow Management (IfaS) at the Trier University of Applied Sciences – a TRANSFORM-CE partner – welcomed the attendees to the IUNC. The event was an excellent platform for the international community to share their experiences, expertise and knowledge, and to connect with like-minded people from around the globe.
New circular economy business models
Both UPZENT and TRANSFORM-CE represent new circular economy business models. In its upcycling efforts, UPZENT uses companies’ residual waste to create new products that are sold in its web shop (upzent.de) while TRANSFORM-CE stimulates the recycling of SUPs for use as a resource base for product manufacturing. Reusing residual waste helps companies save on disposal costs, preserves resources and lets sustainable products be sold to the market. A win-win for everyone.
IUNC: a new network in the making
The objective of the IUNC is to create an international network of companies, educational institutions and upcycling initiatives to jointly advance the circular economy through upcycling. Apart from UPZENT and TRANSFORM-CE, the first event also presented other project models, giving attendees a deeper understanding of the circular economy and the potential of upcycling and recycling plastics. It also acted as a gateway for companies to work with TRANSFORM-CE on case studies, for potential business support, and on sharing ideas and experience.
The second IUNC is expected to take place in June 2022.