Upcycling: Making Wealth from Waste in Ukraine
22 March, 2017

Until recently only a handful of people have heard of “upcycling.“ This new trend, which consists of a creative reuse of unwanted materials. Today “upcycling” is a popular phenomenon, not only in Europe but also in Ukraine. This movement combines aesthetics and style with purposefulness and promotes awareness for ecological problems. As a grassroots movement “upcycling” is especially useful in countries without a well functioning recycling system, where it prevents cities from becoming huge dumps. Ukraine is one of them, and there are a lot of startup entrepreneurs, interested in working with used resources.

Hromadske's special project 'Business Plan' found out how upcycling business works in Ukraine.


Anna Teslo is 29 years old qualified fashion designer. She worked in Kyiv’s largest fashion boutique before discovering “upcycling” two years ago. Since then she has been using second hand clothes to create new. One of her most loyal customers is Olga, an active member of the project “Ukraine Without Waste”.

“People in Europe changed their perception of waste a long time ago. It’s not dirt, but a valuable resource, which can be recycled in order to fabricate things of no lesser quality,” her customer Olga explains.

Anna creates her own collections from used fabrics and releases them under the brand "Rehash." Even though these products are not cheap, they are highly popular among those, who follow the trends.

But apparently not everyone in Ukraine is ready to accept this kind of fashion. “The reactions can differ. Some people say that we are making clothes out of waste and sell them for horrendous prices,” Anna tells us. “But we don’t use low-quality or worn out textiles, we don’t use rubbish. Sometimes people don’t get the difference.”


Another “upcycler” is the 33 year old Pavel Suslyakov. He has been producing notepads for seven years under the brand “Papinarubashka” (“Dad’s shirt”).

“We use old vintage clothes for the notepads. The intriguing thing is, that using this technology we never know how the new range will look like,” Pavel explains.

His first creation, which inspired him to produce these notepads, was a cover made out of vintage clothes for his favourite book. Seven years later there are five people involved in the production, ranging from manager and tailor, to those who make the interior part of the notepads.

“Papinarubashka” ranked first in Forbes’ Top 9 list of extraordinary notepads. They are determined to continue their growth. Their near future plans include not only to compete against European brands, but to conquer the European market itself. In order to achieve this, they have to at least triple their production scale.

By giving new life to used items, Pavel and his team try to make people more aware of the irrational usage of natural products. Thus only the production of cotton textiles requires on average 10 000 litres of water per kilogram of clothes. 800 kilograms of jeans equal 8000 litres of water.


The 43 year old Pavel Saytsev saves old bottles from being thrown on the dump. In the “Talisman Fusing Factory” [his workshop] these bottles get a new opportunity and end up on the table. But this time in the form of crockery.

Bottles can be used not only for food and drink, they can also fit perfectly into interior, providing it with more coziness and light. “In order not to throw away and pollute, these bottles can be used to create decorations, in our case, lamps,” explains Aleksandr Sokolovskiy a 31 year old financier. Together with his younger brother Igor, a qualified architect they produce lamps under the brand “SlightStone”. Before that, both worked in an office.

In order to stay afloat, the brothers have to sell 4-5 lamps a day. For now, these numbers are far from reality. “Initially we produced only lamps, now we produce furniture and decorations,” says Aleksandr.