Jyväskylä Human Technology City

Turning waste into treasure

 How about a handbag made from a car tyre inner-tube? Or a serving bowl fashioned from an old washing machine drum? Secco Finland has achieved rapid international growth by making funky design articles out of materials that many people regard as waste.

Secco Finland’s products are ‘Treasures of Wasteland’. The company is based in Jyväskylä and its network of designers give new life to materials that others have already discarded. Secco’s products include handbags, jewellery, serving bowls and cd racks. The materials used include car tyre inner-tubes, computer keyboards, washing machine drums and car seat belts.

“Where others see waste, we see opportunity – waste is our treasure. We seek to find new life and new uses in waste”, says Secco Finland’s Managing Director Maarit Partanen.

Working in a sustainable way

She explains that in addition to manufacturing in an ecological and economic way, the company also tries to retain something recognizable from the product’s previous life. “It’s a matter of creating added value… the sort of value that can only be realized through innovation.”

The people at Secco are truly committed to sustain­able development and re­cycling. They are genuinely concerned about the environment and the future.

Maarit Partanen and her Austrian business partner, Isabella Haas, together with their extensive network of designers, have sought to establish a link between design and the use of recycled materials on the one hand, and production, marketing and sales on the other. At the same time they bring together suppliers of waste and recycled materials, designers and the people who make the products.

“One of the ideas we have for enhancing our customer ser­vice is to supply our customers not only with products but also with information about opportunities for recycling and sustainable development”, Partanen states.

The systematic use of recycled materials in design products is still very rare. Even so, Maarit Partanen says that the products only represent the tip of the iceberg. Setting up the business model within a creative company was, in fact, the task that involved the most innovation. She believes that the greatest forces in creative businesses are courage and the ability to approach things with an open mind. She regards the need for constant change as a challenge. “What you invent today can be an old idea by tomorrow.”

Big in Japan

Secco was founded in 2004. At first the company was carried forward by the burning desire to test and try new product ideas.

In just a few years its has become a rapidly growing, globally active company.

In Finland Secco has its own shop in Helsinki, and there are plans to open a Seccoshop in Vienna in the near future.

There are also around 50 distributors for Secco products, stretching from the UK to Japan. Secco has sub-contractors in Finland, Austria and Germany.

Japan has a special place in Secco’s success story. In early 2007 a national TV channel in Japan broadcast a programme devoted to Secco, which was watched by around ten million people during peak viewing hours. At that point Secco’s sales started to boom in Japan.

“We’ve been a global company right from the start, so going international hasn’t really been anything out of the ordinary for us. But the people who buy these sorts of products belong to a very select group”, Maarit Partanen states.

In September 2007 Secco’s global marketing achievements won it the award for Central Finland’s Best Marketing Activity.

Tommi Salo Photos by Petteri Kivimäki