What is upcycling?


The definition of upcycling


Upcycling is when you take an item that has already been used and is no longer needed or good for you and giving it a new life in a creative manner. Some people might consider upcycling to be the same thing as recycling but they imply two very different things.

Where recycling is the process of turning something into reusable raw material or disposing of items without creating waste. Upcycling, on the other hand is a process that keeps the item but adds something new to it so there is no need to dispose of it.

Some would consider upcycling to be a natural process while recycling to be a chemical process. Others consider it as increasing the worth of a product and its quality by upgrading it while recycling as lowering the value. Still one can find some truth in all these definitions and conclude that the term means taking an item that is no longer wanted or needed and re-using it by making it into something that is useful, creative and of a higher value.



Something old turned into something new


The benefits of upcycling


The first and most obvious benefit of upcycling is the fact that it helps to save us money. This is achieved by making use of old items in a creative manner instead of going to the store and buying new ones. Saving money is something that everybody wants to do and if we upcycle, we have a way of doing so. In addition, the result of your project can be something awesome, creative and unique. These are things that money can’t always buy!

Another aspect is the way upcycling can help to boost the creativity of people. Creative tasks bring joy to us all this allows combining a hobby with saving money and being an aware citizen that helps in saving the environment as well. As with other creative hobbies, you could even turn upcycling into a little side business by selling the unique items that you create. There are thousands of people who started to upcycle for fun but built it into a full-time business.

The possibilities of what you make and what you use as your base material are basically endless. It could be old VHS tapes, broken furniture, pallets – whatever you can think of. Just get creative and see where it goes!


The environmental benefits of upcycling


Upcycling offers a way to balance the amount of goods produced by companies and the amount of waste that consumers create by using them.

A lot of resources are being wasted in today’s world by people who have more than enough things. Meanwhile, there are people in other parts of the world who are suffering lack of basic amenities like food and clothes. Upcycling enables turning this waste into useful products that are used by these people in need instead of throwing them away and filling up the landfills.

Our planet holds billions of people and we produce a lot of trash daily. Studies have shown that on average, an American can produce a 1 gallon bin of trash in a single day. As these populations grow, the garbage will have nowhere to go. Thus it’s important to both recycle and upcycle at home by turning old wine bottles into bird feeders for example or upcycling old furniture into something beautiful.

This helps to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by using the old items instead of using new manufactured ones. When we upcycle, we reduce the tons of materials that are thrown away and cause pollution and thus companies will produce fewer new products. It changes the mentality of producers into a more eco-friendly state as they are motivated to think of ways to make the initial design of products considering future re-use possibilities.


When did we start to upcycle?


The first notable step in the upcycling movement was the book “Cradle to Cradle” by Braungart and McDonough in 2002. This book remarked several ways of making things better after their first life cycle. It pioneered in the field by advocating that we should strive to extend the life of a product long after its original purpose has been fulfilled. Now upcycling has become more popular among people and companies as well. Many successful entrepreneurs have even made a business from upcycling ever since. For example, Marty Stevens who found innovative ways to make handbags from used nylon rice sacks and juice packs.


Upcycling in today’s world


Upcycling has yet to reach mainstream popularity like some other forms of recycling. However, its importance is starting to gain traction among people and companies. As with each new thing, it takes time to build a serious following. People also have to set the trend before companies do. Luckily, we have made quite a bit of progress since 2002.

Recently there have been increased efforts to build popularity and many companies have adopted the idea of upcycling. A good example is the company Terracycle Company. They collect trash from schools and the streets and use this trash to produce useful items that they can sell.  Another notable company is Evirglas who use old glass and convert it into beautiful landscaping material and hard surfaces.


Why it’s popular?

One reason for upcycling becoming more popular in recent years Is because of the increased awareness for preserving the environment. People have taken the initiative to be more responsible. Homeowners find ways to renovate with free materials and use items like pallets to design their gardens. Parents have learned the art to upcycle their children’s clothes, thus giving them a longer life-cycle.  There has been more environmental consciousness in the media lately. Saving money has also been the reason behind a major boost in the popularity of upcycling. People are more and more conscious of where they spend their money.

People now consider if what they are going to buy can be upcycled later. Better yet, if they could make the item themselves instead. There is also more consideration in what we throw in the trash and what we keep for later use. This is because there is a lot of inspiration available to re-use all kinds of household items now. This could take us closer to the long-gone times. The times when there were no garbage trucks and everything was used to the last extent. There is much that we can borrow from the past. This mentality is definitely something that we should take a look at if we wish to preserve our planet.



Ready to start? Check out some awesome upcycling ideas for motivation or find instructions for your first project here or here!

One Response

  1. AppDevy March 22, 2018

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