Company presentation: New products and skills with recycled materials in Uusix workshops

The Uusix workshops are a production unit of the City of Helsinki’s Social Services and Health Care Division providing rehabilitative work. The employees at Uusix use recycled materials to create new items for everyday use.

Images: Ville Jäppinen

Rehabilitative work in 18 workshops

The Uusix facilities of Kyläsaari and Suvilahti provide rehabilitative work in 18 workshops. The traditional craft workshops and ones focusing on working life skills offer people a chance to develop their skills.

Uusix has just under 500 employee clients at a time taking part in the rehabilitative activities, organised in accordance with the Social Welfare Act. There are also approximately 100 members of staff, including guidance providers, workshop instructors, overseers and other staff. The turnover of the rehabilitative work clients is relatively high.

‘Most people stay with us from three months up to two years. The average time spent here is nine months. During that time, we try to help and teach the people the best we can,’ says Manager Vuokko Oikarinen.

The work is done in 4-hour shifts, either in the mornings or the evenings. The employees’ own interests affect the choice of workshop.

‘We tend not to require more than a little bit of interest towards what a workshop does. After that we encourage people to learn things by doing,’ Oikarinen says.

Recycling at the heart of the Uusix brand

The products created as part of the rehabilitative work are mostly made from recycled materials. The most important thing is for the tasks to help people learn and be suitable for their skills. Rehabilitative work starts with the easiest assignments, but as a person’s skills improve, they are given more challenging tasks.

‘We run our operations according to what is best in terms of the goals of rehabilitative work. We make products for our own brand, and there is never a rush to finish a job,’ says Oikarinen.

The products created in the workshops must represent the Uusix brand by being playful yet practical. The intention is to include a small ‘wow’ factor in the products.

‘Even the simplest of works can be fun for the buyers. These two elements are not mutually exclusive,’ says Oikarinen.

In addition to making new products, Uusix also repair and restore old objects. For example, the people working in the Fillari workshop fix old bicycles and dismantle them for spare parts that can then be bought from the bike shop at the Kyläsaari rehabilitative work facilities. In PC recycling, computers that can still be used are formatted for resale and broken ones are taken apart for recycling.

The recycled material is received through donations

‘Another wonderful thing we create here are the stories behind the products,’ Oikarinen says. For example, before Christmas the woodwork department will start selling products such as stools and spatulas made from the linden trees cut down on Mechelininkatu street.

The Uusix workshops were founded in 1997 to mainly serve people changing careers or trying out a new trade. However, recycling has been one of the main themes right from the start. Using recycled materials, recycling building parts and repairing bicycles has been part of the activities since the very beginning.

Recycling is very much our thing and integral to our operations.

The location of the facilities in Kyläsaari, next to a recycling centre, prompted the original idea of incorporating recycling in Uusix’s activities.

‘We had such a lot of good materials available that we decided to start making things out of them,’ Oikarinen says.

Unlike the recycling centre, Uusix accepts large homogenic production series and batches from companies. On the other hand, recycled household things no longer end up at Uusix but go to the recycling centre next door.

‘We operate in the same field but have our own little niches. We are not competitors,’ says Oikarinen, explaining the differences between Uusix and the recycling centre.

Uusix receives its material as donations from companies and public operators. It also requests materials directly from businesses. Various events and expos generate a lot of material suitable for the workshops. For example, banners from the Tall Ships’ Races or outdoor advertising canvases of companies have continued their life as Uusix products. Uusix also regularly works together with large corporations, such as Stora Enso and Finnair.

Uusix as part of the City of Helsinki

Finished products are sold at Uusix’s own shop in Kyläsaari. Seasonal pop-up shops are also established around the city.

The handicrafts workshop has recently been creating unique hanging baskets for plants. Decorative macramé has been intricately knotted around glass jars.

Because Uusix is part of the City of Helsinki’s operations, it is often asked to participate in events as one of the city’s representatives. Uusix has had a pop-up shop at the Helsinki International Horse Show and both the European and World Figure Skating Championships. The next Uusix pop-up shop will be opened before Christmas in Hietalahti Market Hall, and the one after that will be at the 2020 Men’s World Floorball Championships in Helsinki.

Products sell well in the shop at Kyläsaari and the pop-up stalls. Any leftover products are often sold at Uusix’s internal jumble sales and events, allowing the employees to buy products made by themselves or others for an affordable price.


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