Up-cycling, a not so new idea.

Up-cycling; a concept little heard about outside the realms of renewable design, Wikipedia lists its meaning as this:

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.

The first recorded use of the term upcycling was by Reiner Pilz of Pilz GmbH in an interview by Thornton Kay of Salvo in 1994


However in reality the concept goes back way further than that. On a recent holiday to Amsterdam I visited a museum (believe it or not!). Dont think I’m too much of a geek just yet – it was a beer museum – relax. So the museum has the two things that university is founded on: Beer and education. Absolute win. I could bore you with many pictures and stories of my trip but I’ll cut to the point.

I was definitely not expecting to find one of the earliest examples of up-cycling I’d ever come across here. Although the term was first coined in 1994 – It turns out the idea has existed in one form or another much, much earlier. In the museum I came across what is refered to as the WOBO concept.
WOBO stands for World Bottle – and was the brainchild of the at the time Heineken owner & brewer Alfred Heineken and brought to life by Dutch architect John Habraken. Heineken first came up with the idea during a visit to the Caribbean where he saw two problems – Beaches and habitats littered with bottles and a lack of cheap or affordable housing or building materials. So he combined these two problems to become the solution – A brick that holds beer. Drink while you build – what a visionary! The resulting design looked a little (exactly) like this:

A bottle that would directly replace bricks and would interlock with the use of mortar. Brilliant.
The only problem was that it became problematic to make corners without cutting the bottles which would not only be messy but would compromise the integrity of the bottle. In the end, only 100,000 bottles were produced. Out of these 100,000 bottles there were two structures made – A glass shed on Mr Heineken’s estate in the Netherlands and a glass wall which is now displayed in the Heineken museum. The rest of these bottles have either been lost, destroyed or have become collectible items.

Of course this post would not be complete without a quick holiday snap!

Mike Skillings (Left), The bottle wall and myself (Right)


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