Designer piece instead of waste: how ZURÜCK helps companies with zero-waste projects

Companies in the cultural and creative industries are often pioneers in integrating circular economy concepts into their business model. In our current series on this topic, we showcase selected young companies from the cultural and creative industries that are thinking about the circular economy from the ground up. This time: ZURÜCK, a Munich-based zero-waste design studio that designs upcycling projects together with companies. Founded in 2020, the company aims to change the way society thinks about zero waste and the circular economy. We spoke to founder Anna Diermeier about how she has integrated circular working methods into her business model. And she tells us what startups can learn from her.

Munich Startup: Who are you and what does ZURÜCK do?

Anna Diermeier, founder of ZURÜCK Studio: We are a design studio for zero-waste and upcycling projects. Valuable resources end up in the trash every day. We use them to create something new on behalf of companies. The choice of materials is diverse. We work with textile offcuts, advertising banners or paper scraps. What the materials have in common is that they were only used for a short time or not at all, although some of them were designed to be used for many years. The waste materials are processed locally and fairly in Germany or even in and around Munich.

Thinking about the circular economy right from the product design stage

Munich Startup: How do you incorporate the circular economy into your business model?

Anna Diermeier: For our upcycling projects, we use existing materials that have completed their first life cycle, such as advertising banners. We apply the principle of re-use here. This means that a material is given a second purpose and is being reused.

It becomes even more exciting when the secondary use is considered when designing the original product. For example, we did this with the Bavarian Chamber of Architects for an exhibition. When creating the exhibition banners, we created a pattern with product graphics placed on the back. After the traveling exhibition, which runs for about a year, practical cable bags are sewn from the banners.

Our offer is primarily aimed at companies that have a large amount of waste and want to design and realize something new from it. We focus on customized solutions, i.e. products that the company’s target group really needs, and on local processing.

ZURÜCK: Positive communication as an important part of the work

Munich Startup: What can other startups learn from you?

Anna Diermeier: We see positive communication as an important part of our work. That’s why we communicate the background to projects – how was it created, where was it made and how was it used? – on social media and our website. We also like to go on panels and discuss the topic of circular economy. Talking about the topic and making people aware of it is already a success. From the beginning, I’ve been working with a photographer for the photos and videos I publish. I think that’s an important part of the success. I think attractive photos are super important.

Munich Startup: What are your current challenges?

Anna Diermeier: I find it difficult to find the right balance. Balancing the fluctuations between perceived “idle time” and “excessive demands”, because everything always comes at once. I work alone on the concept, but I have built up a great network of companies that then implement the products. A continuous order situation with a few recurring projects would be great.

Adapt regulations so that disposable products are no longer “worthwhile”

Munich Startup: What other circular solutions are there that you find exciting?

Anna Diermeier: Upcycling is of course obsolete if we produce in a circular way. Then there are no more waste materials, overproduction and disposable products. There are a few companies that have already internalized the idea of circularity and have even adapted their business model. Patagonia and Vaude come to mind, of course. A reusable system such as Recup or Vytal also makes perfect sense. However, the prerequisite for this is that the cups are actually reused and not left in our cupboards at home. It would also be great if all stores could agree on a system and not offer their own solutions.

Munich Startup: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Anna Diermeier: In 5 years, ZURÜCK has become a busy design studio with many beautiful projects in the field of upcycling and, above all, in the area of product development with a focus on zero waste and the circular economy. The regulations have changed so much that it is no longer worth producing disposable clothing, disposable furniture or elaborate disposable packaging. As a result, we have been able to dramatically improve our waste of resources and our waste problem. Incidentally, Munich has the goal of becoming a zero-waste city. We are a crucial part of this!