Upcycling becomes growing green trend in Azerbaijan in the age of coronavirus

By Jasur Hasanov, Tamirlan Gasimov and Zaur Aliyev

The concept of a ‘circular economy’ was conceived in the 1970s with the aim of promoting a world where nothing goes to waste. Over 40 years later, this same aim has become a priority for the Sustainable Development Goals and the EU’s Green Deal.

With the world’s population expected to reach ten billion in 2030, we each need to do more to help pave the way to a sustainable future.

And one solution that we can all help is to abandon the linear economy in which so many products are thrown away when replacing it with a circular economy in which products are made, used and then upcycled and reused.

Upcycling is repurposing an old object into a new creation, and it is increasingly popular throughout the world.

At the UNDP Accelerator Lab our team are always on the lookout for innovative solutions on the ground that can be supported, developed and upscaled to make the most difference in the shortest possible time.

Following the global trend in upcycling, we set about thinking together with our #EU4Climate team of ways to encourage more people in Azerbaijan to upcycle products they’d normally throw away.

Knowing how much remarkable talent in arts and crafts is out there amongst the people of Azerbaijan, we joined forces with the EU and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources to develop the country’s first-ever upcycling platform.

The new platform is called ‘Ozun Yarat’ — meaning ‘Do It Yourself’ — and was launched on World Environment Day under the motto ‘Change begins from home’.

Since we launched the www.ozunyarat.az website we’ve already had 102,000 visits — and the submissions have been amazing!

Just to list a few examples:

Farid made a toy helicopter out of an old cane, while Narmin and Azer turned a plastic bottle into a fully functioning vacuum-cleaner. Valida Eminova made an awesome table out of vinyl records and Nihat made a lamp out of dusty old tape-cassettes.

But it was Gulsum Mammadova’s contributions that really blew us away. Not only did she craft an ingenious kitchen accessory using eggshells (!) but she was further inspired to create her own page and display some of her amazing works on the platform. Now she plans to start selling her upcycled creations online.

We gave Gulsum a call to find out what inspired her.

“ I started using Ozun Yarat since the very first day it was launched and I met so many people there like me who care about the environment and want to use their creativity to make a difference. It doesn’t always have to be big things — we can care for nature by doing simple things too. Ozun Yarat site is so inspiring for young people!”

Azerbaijan has made remarkable progress in protecting its environment over recent years. But every one of us needs to contribute to building a sustainable legacy for future generations. The Ozun Yarat platform is just one small step in this direction.

We’ll keep building on the DIY trend by trying to turn the platform into a marketplace where people can promote and sell their upcycled creations.

For those new to upcycling, the platform and its users will share tips and techniques for repurposing everyday objects and creatively transforming waste materials into new products. We also plan on making it possible for users of the site to conduct webinars and workshops to teach people who are interested in upcycling.

The COVID-19 lockdown is extremely stressful for many millions of people — but these strange times can also be a great opportunity for us to learn new skills and make our own personal contribution to help build back better and greener. After all, change begins from home.

Here at UNDP Azerbaijan we’ve been trying out our own upcycling skills too. Check out some of the creations we’ve made!

by Jasur Hasanov, UNDP Accelerator Lab’s Head of Experimentation
by Tamirlan Gasimov, UNDP EU4Climate National Project Coordinator