Upcycling center: A participatory business model to raise awareness and implement a resource-efficient circular economy.

Grafik: Jennifer Graf
Photo: IfaS, 2018
K8, Jennifer Graf, 2018
K8, Jennifer Graf, 2018
Photo: Jennifer Graf, K8 – Institute for Strategic Aesthetics
Photo: IfaS, 2019
K8, Jennifer Graf, 2021
K8, Jennifer Graf, 2020
Photo: IfaS, 2018

Trier University of Applied Sciences - the Institute for Applied Material Flow Management (IfaS) has been operating an upcycling center since 2016, which closes material cycles through the use of commercial residual materials and seeks to establish a circular economy based on solidarity and equality. The combination of professional product design (under the responsibility of K8 - the Institute for Strategic Aesthetics) and work with long-term job seekers and migrants (in the partner workshops AQA gGmbH, FAUK e.V.), allows something new to emerge, which puts people at the center and at the same time creates aesthetically pleasing products from residual materials.

In "UPZENT", this project approach is transferred into a transferable business model that allows socially active workshops to participate nationwide. In this way, we create a combination of ecology, social commitment and economy - a round thing.

In terms of the circular economy, the goal is to establish a sustainable cascade through the conversion and valorization of commercial residual materials on a regional level, which takes place in constant dialog with companies, recyclers and consumers. The tool for this is a cycle-oriented and aesthetically pleasing product design. This requires a transsectoral cooperation of different actors along the entire product life cycle, starting from product design, through manufacturing, to use and recycling. Regular workshops with design students as future designers provide a lasting illustration of the serious potential hidden in commercial waste materials.

The UPZENT product range is manufactured exclusively by socially active workshops that focus on people. There, different needs are actively addressed and both qualified and integrated, so that socially disadvantaged people have easier access to the primary labor market.

The further development of the upcycling center into a self-supporting business model makes it possible to transfer it to other regions and can promote the system change towards a socially responsible recycling economy.

Consortium UpZent is carried out in a network under the direction of Trier University of Applied Sciences (Environmental Campus Birkenfeld), Institute for Applied Material Flow Management (IfaS) in cooperation with the following partners: Hochschule der bildenden Künste Saar (HBKsaar) / Institut für strategische Ästhetik gGmbH (K8), Gemeinnützige Beschäftigungs- und Qualifizierungs-GmbH Neunkirchen (AQA gGmbH), Förderverein Arbeit, Umwelt und Kultur in der Region Aachen e. V. (FAUK e. V.)
Duration September 2019 - August 2022
Funded by Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the funding measure "Resource-efficient circular economy - Innovative product cycles (ReziProK)" funded (funding code: 033R239A). "ReziProK" is part of the BMBF research concept "Resource Efficient Circular Economy" and supports projects that develop business models, design concepts or digital technologies for closed product cycles.
Funding amount € 961,388, Trier University's share: € 604,333.20

Project management at Trier University of Applied Sciences:

Prof. Dr. Peter Heck
Professor FB Umweltwirtschaft/-recht - FR Umweltwirtschaft


+49 6782 17-1221


Birkenfeld | Building 9926 | Room 128
Tobias Gruben
Beschäftigter IfaS


+49 6782 17-2630


Birkenfeld | Building 9926 | Room 28
Jackeline Martinez Gomez, Dipl.-Ing., MSc.
Beschäftigte IfaS


+49 6782 17-2624


Birkenfeld | Building 9926 | Room 130


8:00 - 14:00
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