Nordic Upstream utilises end-of-life textiles in furniture and wall panels

Nordic Upstream is Rajala family-owned company in Salo, whose business is the maintenance of parquet floors around the world. When the COVID-19 crisis arose, the company started to explore new opportunities and began to develop home decor products made from recycled materials.

The company wanted to follow the principles of circular economy and use end-of-life textiles in its products. Suitable applications were available immediately. The company had previous experience in manufacturing and moulding furniture. Therefore, the Rajalas used their existing expertise to develop a new kind of business.

‘We realised that we can use our existing machinery, for example, to make trays. Our aim is to use end-of-life textile so that it does not have to be disposed of, for example, by incineration. It has always been our ultimate idea’, said CEO Mikko Rajala.

Nordic Upstream manufactures new products from recycled fibre at its production facility in Salo. In the photo: Mikko Rajala, Heidi Rajala, and Olli Rajala. Photo @ Riitta Supperi / Noon Kollektiivi

Customer’s value durable and recycled products

Customers are creating a demand products made from recycled materials. In addition to ecology, customers appreciate products durability, lightness, and an elegant appearance. Nordic Upstream focuses particularly on these features when designing and manufacturing its interior products.

End-of-life textile is a new material, that has enabled the company to experiment in new novel ways of working. For end-of-life textile to be used as a raw material for interior decoration products, it is necessary to test different compositions and to adjust the machinery’s compressive force to suit each product. Experimentation has proven to be rewarding.

‘The more you try, the more you learn. New ideas keep coming up. At first, we used textile only in trays, but later we discovered that it could be used for wall panels, chair seats, or backrests. All you have to do, is find the right components to make the product work,” said Rajala.

‘We apply a trial-and-error technique to find out which components work best together. This kind of experiment has been very educational’, continued Rajala.

The end-of-life textiles used in interior decoration products come from consumers

Before the launch of Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto’s (LSJH) pilot production line, households’ end-of-life textiles, that the company used, were processed into recycled fibres at LSJH’s hardware supplier in France.

Nordic Upstream’s cooperation with LSJH initially started when the company noticed an article about the construction of the end-of-life textile refinement plant. The Rajalas were inspired and started to get ideas. Soon, they contacted LSJH, and product development started rapidly.

‘For us, excellent cooperation and support have been important during this development project, both from LSJH and Business Finland, the Finnish government organization for innovation funding and trade promotion. We have been in contact online frequently, but lately we have also been able to visit LSJH a couple of times. We are located relatively closely, so it is never a problem to pay a visit if we want to have a chat about anything. This is a great advantage’, Rajala said.

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Nordic Upstream

Photos @ Riitta Supperi / Noon Kollektiivi