Turning VHS tapes into fabric one of many eco-friendly products at a recent Helsinki enviro-expo.

Yesterday’s trash carrying around today’s tech-treasure was only one of the many ideas that were showcased in Helsinki’s recent recycling expo.

“Finns have always been good at creating something from nothing,” states Outi Pyy, a volunteer publicist for Recycle Factory, who hosted Eco Design 2013 at the start of May. “I remember when my grandmother used to make a lot of stuff out of just scraps and plastic bags and all sorts of things. The whole mentality has been in Finland for years.”

At Eco Design 2013, over 40 companies showcased products, such as laptop bags made from recycled VHS tape.

“The VHS tape is just one example of items that has ended up being discarded,” Pyy says. “There’s loads of it, it’s free, what can we do with it? Besides, its black and black is always in style.” The bags are from Plan B, a Helsinki-based waste diversion project. While recycling might be an old idea, wearing your carbon footprint for the world to see is gaining popularity.

“It was once seen as frumpy,” Pyy offers, “We have a lot of designers on board as well, we’re making more and more beautiful things. We are changing the mindset.” Pyy notes that upcycling’s popularity seems to be tied to dips in the economy, but that doesn’t mean saving money looks cheap.

Reducing your environmental impact doesn’t end at clothing, and there were plenty of planet-friendly products, even eco-cosmetics on offer at Eco Design 2013. “I used to be a salesperson there... it never used to be this big. Now it’s growing exponentially, with an estimated 15,000 people attending. We just want to introduce to people what the urban ecological lifestyle is.”

Internally, Recycle Factory is looking to create a community year-round that allows the smaller companies to be more cohesive. “We talk together on how we can improve business and help each other out and grow together,” Pyy explains. “The whole event is one big example of how the shared interests between these ecological and recycling companies have to come together to make this into a bigger thing. That’s what makes us different.”


Adam Faber