As the problem of waste has become serious due to the increase in the use of disposable products after COVID-19, strategies to reuse discarded products or materials are receiving great attention. Recycling is familiar through activities such as separate collection. Beyond recycling, there is something that has gained worldwide attention very quickly in the last few years. It’s just upcycling. Recycling simply reuses or extends the period of use through processing, whereas upcycling refers to recreating a product with more value than the original by adding design beyond recycling. Upcycling requires less energy than recycling because there aren’t any process of decomposition and resynthesis. Therefore, it is advantageous for environmental protection to upcycle as much as possible. In a social mood where the importance of upcycling is emphasized, there is the Cheongju Upcycle Citizen Center, which strives to spread the upcycling culture in daily life to citizens. A CBT reporter met with Yeom Woo, the director of the Cheongju Upcycle Citizen Center.
Q1. Please introduce yourself briefly and tell us about the Cheongju Upcycle Citizen Center.
After graduating from the Dept. of Environmental Engineering at CBNU and obtaining a master’s degree in Urban Engineering, I am currently completing a doctoral course at the Graduate School of Risk Management. The Cheongju Upcycle Citizen Center is a comprehensive facility in Cheongju, built to revitalize resource circulation and spread the upcycling culture, and is commissioned by the Pulkum Environment Foundation. On Nov. 13, 2019, the Center was opened with the slogan of “newer, more beneficial.” The basement floor is a recycling center, and there are an office, an exhibition and sales area for resource upcycling products on the first floor. The second floor is an exhibition, publicity experience center, a rest area, and the third floor is composed of upcycling workshops, experience labs, and joint work rooms.
Q2. The Center operates various upcycling related experiences, education, exhibitions, and publicity programs. Please introduce these programs.
As a resource circulation platform for participation and cooperation, we are striving to expand citizen communication and vitalize citizen participation by opening basic facilities and operating exhibition, publicity, and experience spaces. In particular, we provide various educational and experience opportunities to citizens to raise civic awareness about resource circulation and to spread a culture of practice. We are conducting more than 400 civic education programs per year, including visiting experience education, visiting life practice education, and resource upcycling specialized education. About 50 resource upcycling leaders have been nurtured, and they are in charge of education and practical activities. “The New” is an upcycling experience program for citizens and their families, and is held every Saturday morning and afternoon with 30 - 40 themes, 60 - 70 times a year.
Q3. The CBT reporter was told that the center puts a lot of effort into revitalizing programs in the upcycling craft field among the many programs you introduced. Please explain this for readers unfamiliar with upcycling craft.
Upcycling craft is the art of creating valuable new uses by adding design or usability to what is thrown away. Our Center strives to nurture experts in upcycling crafts and strengthening networks, support upcycling craft startups, and foster the industry. We are supporting joint program operation and product development by moving in 7 upcycling workshops. Next, a network of about 20 upcycling workshops in Cheongju is being established to promote cooperative projects such as an exhibition of joint workshops. In addition, we are nurturing upcycling craftsman who can be called Cheongju type upcyclers in order to discover latent craft talents among local citizens. A total of 60 people have been nurtured from the first to third semesters, and creative activities are supported. We also conducted a project to support upcycling craft ideas and production for the third year. Each year, 10 outstanding works are produced and the results are displayed by holding a joint workshop for each stage. In the future, we are preparing a promotional marketing plan such as developing a joint brand and establishing a distribution system. First of all, we are preparing a small upcycling craft shop called “Colorful” in the center.
Q4. Citizens who are not good at making crafts are hesitant to participate in the upcycling craft experience program. Can people with little or no talent or aptitude easily follow this program?
Upcycling craft is an art with a low bar to enter for beginners. Our upcycling craft experience program can easily be experienced by all ages, starting with toddlers.
Even if you don’t have incredible dexterity, don’t hesitate to try the program. Citizens who want to participate in the program have three different options. Those who are interested in upcycling crafts can participate in the upcycling experience program “The New.” This is a free program held every Saturday. Those who think they have a talent for upcycling crafts can participate in the upcycling craftsman training course. This is a medium-term project that takes a total of 25 lessons and takes 60 - 70 hours. Those who are already doing upcycling crafts can participate in the upcycling crafts production support project or the excellent work contest. A small production subsidy or prize money is provided for selected excellent works. In particular, you can showcase your talents through joint exhibitions. Cheongju citizens can make at least one gift for their loved ones, so we want to create a new culture where upcycled crafts abound throughout Cheongju.
Q5. Not only the upcycling craft experience program but also the upcycling craft exhibition is one of the unique features of the Center. Last year, you held a special exhibition of resource circulation. Please introduce the most memorable works in the exhibition you have held so far.
Before introducing the work, I would like to tell you about the reason for holding the exhibition. By holding an exhibition, we hope to spread upcycling crafts into popular culture. Upcycling crafts may not seem special at first, but I am sure that upcycling crafts will become popular culture with sparkling ideas and quality crafts pouring out as soon as citizens become the main actors of crafts. Numerous upcycling works have been exhibited so far, such as household props using scrap wood, goods using coffee grounds, aprons made of jeans, speakers using discarded furniture, and junk dolls made from discarded parts. One of the most memorable things is the tumbler insulated bag made from umbrella cloth by an upcycling craftsman. It was very popular in terms of design and practicality.
Q6. If there are any upcycling craft that you made yourself, please introduce it.
I have experienced making upcycling brooches (hairpins). I thought it was very interesting and amazing to experience the process of using discarded wires to frame the petals and fill the petals with unused nail polish. When I was young, I liked to make things, but becoming an adult, I avoided making things with the excuse that I was busy. Watching the activities of upcycling craftspeople recently, I thought I was envious. Now, I have decided to start another career as a new upcycling crafter. I plan to directly participate in the fourth upcycling crafter training course to be held next year.
Q7. In an interview with MBC Chungbuk in Sept., you said that now, not only businesses and governments, but also various groups such as clubs and schools should participate in solving environmental problems. What role can CBNU students play in their daily life?
Currently, mankind and the international community are seeking a major transformation into a carbon-free economic and social structure to overcome the climate crisis. As a graduate of CBNU, I want my juniors to become green innovators who contribute to creating a sustainable world no matter what career or job they choose. At one time, agendas such as economic growth, social democratization, and the welfare state were the spirit of the times. Now is the era of sustainable development, carbon neutrality and green transition. Resource circulation, upcycling, and circular economy all share this context. Please take a look at Freitag, a world-class upcycling company, and Moredan, Korea’s leading upcycling company. I would like to challenge you to become a reformer who has an insight into the flow of the times.
Q8. Finally, what would you like to say to the CBNU students?
Recently, we are facing a complex crisis of pandemic, economic downturn, and climate disaster. It looks like a different phenomenon, but it is due to one cause which is a growth-driven carbon economy. A turning point must be made before the catastrophe of a 1.5°C rise in global average temperature is reached. Energy conversion and resource circulation are urgently needed, and we need to create new hope based on this. It’s time to start the transition to a green life that cares about the planet and the environment. If you reflect on what you are doing for the planet and the environment, living enjoying the benefits of the Earth and the environment, the answer will come out. I think “now, immediately, everyone” is important.
The Cheongju Upcycle Citizen Center is currently operating upcycling experience and education programs in the second half of the year, and is constantly striving to spread the upcycling culture. How about visiting the Cheongju Upcycle Citizen Center with family or friends to have eyes for upcycling this weekend?
By Kim Chan-ju