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LONDON TECHNOLOGY OPINION

Thursday July 25 2019

Why Businesses Need to Focus On Upcycling, Not Waste



Rune Sovndahl

RUNE SOVNDAHL | CEO Fantastic Services




Why Businesses Need to Focus On Upcycling, Not Waste

There are many, many problems being caused by Brexit; the uncertainty, the in-fighting, the lack of clear leadership at the top. 

It’s all consuming. 

But one of the most overlooked aspects of Brexit is that it’s preventing us from focusing on other issues, problems that are becoming more and more pressing. 

And one of the big ones, for me, is our throwaway society - and why there’s a lack of commitment from the big companies when it comes to ‘upcycling’ and reducing wastage. 

Producers of goods have been so adept at marketing the ‘newness’ of things that people simply don’t know what can and can’t be repaired. 

And I don't think that entrepreneurs are doing enough to create real change.

The surprising reality is that here’s actually almost nothing that can’t be fixed. 

Thankfully there’s a growing group of switched-on people who are becoming repair fanatics, in a cultural shift that absolutely needs to happen. 

My company, Fantastic Services, has offices in Bulgaria and I’ve spent a lot of time living there. The approach to upcycling there has been enlightening. 

In Bulgaria, if something breaks down, someone will know how to fix it. It might be your friend, colleague, or your neighbour from down the street's best buddy. 

But someone will know how to make that broken light fitting, door, table, washing machine – you name it – work again.

The whole culture is geared towards fixing what you have rather than immediately throwing it out and buying something new. 

It's an attitude which more people in the “western” world could do with adopting. 

Let’s also take a look at that great driver of human consumption - the global car market. 

On paper, firms like Elon Musk’s Tesla sound good, but they’re still part of the problem. They don't repair. They still make new cars - albeit electric ones - which use materials and leave a carbon footprint when being built. 

If I've bought a BMW Z4 or a VW beetle or camper van, it's because I think they're fantastic. And I’d rather put an electric engine in my old car than replace it. 

Yet the infrastructure to make that a reality is not currently accessible for the average owner. 

Then there’s the ever-present problems posed by fast fashion. 

The UK already throws away 235 million items of clothing each year. These are scary numbers.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. My wife recently began work on a startup which makes clothes at home. Instead of new fast disposable clothes, it makes patterns to sew clothes which fit, which are made for you and which are only made to order.

This means it won't be suddenly thrown away because the colours go out of fashion.

And companies like Fantastic Services can also do their bit. 

Fantastic Services was birthed in the midst of a global recession at the end of the 2000s. 

Bootstrapping a company with zero resources, where you have to optimise literally everything to grow and make a profit means you develop a certain ethos when it comes to efficiencies and streamlining. 

The handymen and plumbers are trained in the art of repair, not the throw-away replacement.

And we’ve teamed-up with third party providers to offer a domestic appliance repair service, too. It's one more way to help people reduce, reuse and recycle more easily.

Just picture fixing your Ikea furniture next time it falls apart, rather than chucking it. 

That's how they used to do it in the old days. My grandfather back in Copenhagen would automatically try to fix or upcycle anything which broke down.

I didn't have a new bike until I was twenty-four. Before that, it was restored bicycle after restored bicycle. I even drove his ancient old Vauxhall for five years before finally nothing could be done to keep it alive.

I'm not sure if throwing something away would even have been a thought which entered his head. He had a whole barn full of stuff. When you need something fixed he could weld, glue, shape, sharpen or bend it back to working order.

I am sure this is the way to end up with more beauty in the world and less waste. I miss the bicycle I had for the longest time: It was custom! The front fork was from a green bike, the rear from a black bike. It was a great bike. 

Then the 80s came along and everyone seemed to want everything to be new, new, new.

I think going back is the way forward. Creating services which make sustainability accessible will be our mission.



" Theres a growing group of switched-on people who are becoming repair fanatics, in a cultural shift that absolutely needs to happen."
Rune Sovndahl, CEO Fantastic Services








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