24 October 2019

The upcycling project which re-qualifies waste and becomes a tool for social redemption

The Eta Beta 4 Oway initiative demonstrates the potential of artistic reuse in support of a new model of solidarity.

Market mechanisms, after all, are the projection of everyday dynamics.

Think about it: along the production chain, companies find themselves managing the search for raw materials, the choice of packaging and the disposal phase, just as consumers consciously select their purchases and deal with waste sorting.

Just imagine how many benefits sustainable behaviours and habits combined with the extraordinary potential of creativity could bring to this process?

Through the story of a project of artistic reuse, which starts from far away to then return to Bologna, you will discover the enormous variety of uses and the different degrees of value that simple glass bottles can achieve when animated by the taste of revival seasoned with a pinch of flair.

What is Upcycling

But let's start from the circular philosophy which inspired the initiative and that genetically conditions our way of doing agricosmetics. Have you ever heard of Upcycling?

Yes but... What is the best way to translate it?

In Italian it is not easy to find a strong literal translation without investigating its nuances. The expression that comes closest to the real meaning is "creative reuse", but it is not sufficient to pass on the concept.

It is the art of reusing waste materials to give life to new objects with different uses, with a higher value than the original product. It means re-qualifying resources to turn them into something more important and desirable, but above all to reduce their environmental impact by giving them a second chance.

First examples, in times not yet ripe

It was the 1960s when the first multinationals began to take its advantages into consideration.

The forerunner was Heineken, who transformed empty beer bottles into building bricks. Its idea at that time did not break through the wall of conventions, as society was not yet ready for a break with the traditional way of looking at objects and consumption. 

Be careful not to confuse it with recycling

The first doubt to be resolved then, concerned - and still concerns - the difference between Recycling and Upcycling. It is not a question of bringing a material back to its original use, but of rethinking it completely and of giving it an unprecedented and more precious property.

The word itself (up-cycling) allows us to sense the greater value of this type of reuse, thanks to a careful and intelligent design, already developed in the eco-design phase. 

Viewed with the right eye, everyday life offers endless opportunities

First tip: it’s a bit like in optical illusions, when you are invited to find a figure in the colour patch which is the fruit of your personal perception, likewise, in front of waste, you can have fun imagining new uses.

At home, everyone must dispose of the cardboard box from an online purchase or of the glass bottle of the oil you have just finished.

And if you think about it, you might remember that you have a jewellery box or a bedside lamp at the top of your wish list. With a small decoration and a light bulb, you will have already created it, as fast as a click but without shipping costs, road pollution and in-store search times.

The project “The future is in waste”

The time has come to take you on Oway’s journey in the dimension of fair upcycling, able to re-qualify waste and to support people in difficulty on their path of professional reintegration.

All the best trips take place in good company

Nothing spared as regards distance.

During a special event in Kamakura, Japan, we inaugurated the first phase of this project together with Oway Japan, presenting beautiful design objects resulting from the fusion of Italian and Japanese creativity.

Japanese craftsmen recovered discarded material and made valuable objects in cypress and cherry wood. Once the wood was treated - the natural component par excellence, which brings the material and authenticity of small things closer - glass containers made in Oway, 100% infinitely recyclable, came into play.

It was no longer necessary to leave home: among the complexes that characterise industrial Bologna, the productive frenzy and the regular lines of the buildings, a world of ideas has been forged for many years, animated by resourcefulness, manual ability and desire for redemption. It is the social cooperative Eta Beta, articulated in various spaces but composed first of all by people, whose will goes beyond all boundaries and beyond any difficulty.

Eta Beta 4 Oway: craftsmanship rewrites the history of containers

Artistic sensitivity was already part of their background and was already considered the recipe for carving out a new and better place in the labour universe.

Once they had received Oway’s empty containers, used and returned by some customers and salons in Bologna to be given a new life, the people in the cooperative set to work.

Passing through various meticulous cleaning, washing, cutting, melting and decorating phases, the recovered glass was transformed and took on the shape they had drafted in their sketches. Home furnishings, lighting objects and accessories destined to last over time, were born.

Schools, children, star chefs and reintegration: the world of Eta Beta

One thing is certain: the social cooperative, which has been active in the Emilia area for over 20 years, promotes a new model of solidarity.

By overcoming the classic concept of shelter, Eta Betacultivates the professional inclinations of the individual and shows the benefits deriving from manual application, teaching the craftmanship techniques of glass, wood and ceramic.

But that's not all: if works of artistic craftsmanship draw on recovered material, to create starting from waste and to encourage sustainability, the initiatives linked to the “analogical”, material and ecological teaching and signature collaborations with prestigious chefs and starred restaurants play an equally important part.

The stage for this industrious undertaking is made up of many backdrops: the Spazio Battirame experimentation centre, the smart village with its glassware, carpentry and ceramic workshops and green areas for growing vegetables with synergistic, educational and agricultural functions.

New life for Oway’s bottles

You may be wondering: how did we select only a few objects and interrupt a creative flow which would have produced other amazing results?

The truth is that the power of Upcycling is just that. The infinite stimulus to do more, to invent beyond imagination, to have fun doing something useful for the ecosystem.

That's why it's not a point of arrival. We started a chain of artistic reuse which can never break, because having seen with our own eyes some of the many versions in which glass containers can be transformed has aroused the curiosity to discover many other useful and exclusive ones.

Were you with us at the Bologna Design Week event "The future is in waste" at the store: Sloway in via Ugo Bassi 4/E?

If you missed it, here's a way to catch up!


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