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Upparel a game-changer in high waste textile2 min read

Feb 2, 2023 2 min

Upparel a game-changer in high waste textile2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Upparel Founder Michael Elias and NZ Director Jeff Vollebregt

From a humble factory space in Onehunga, Jeff Vollebregt is on a mission to extend the life cycle of textiles. Upparel is an Australasian fashion waste recycling programme which aims to end textile waste from landfills and transform what was once considered waste into a valuable resource.

Upparel receives textiles, garments, PPE, uniforms, shoes, boots and belts from several New Zealand corporations, which are then sorted into what can be re-worn or recycled. Recyclable wearable items are given a second life through a social enterprise programme for donation to charity partners, and what is unwearable moves on to a recycle process.

The recycle process involves upcycling textile waste into a profitable and sustainable resource to replace products usually made from virgin non-sustainable materials such as polystyrene, fibreglass and cellulose. It is washed, shredded, then transformed into a non-woven felt material used to create filling for mattresses, cushions, bean bags, pet beds, home insulation, roading, building and construction materials.

For the past 20 years, Jeff has worked in corporate head offices overseas, but a desire to create change for future generations sparked his commitment to head Upparel NZ to help make a positive impact on the planet.

“We’ve always had a philosophy that we carry across all facets of the business; progress over perfection. Upcycling & repurposing is a way for us to take items that are no longer fit for use and work with like-minded, innovative partners to create new items with a redefined purpose.

“We know we don’t have all the answers or solutions. We do, however, have a commitment to making a positive change while keeping an open mind and learning from our experiences ensures that we constantly progress as we strive for perfection. Through those learnings, and as we grow as a business, we’ve found that we have an opportunity to not only make a positive environmental impact but a positive social impact as well.”

The organisation has over a hundred Impact Partners – associated recyclers, social and charity organisations or customer/partners, and they have an exciting partnership with a local Onehunga business in the works.

They plan to expand geographically and boost the scope of upcycling operations to meet the demand, which is a good sign for the future.

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