Upcycling is term used for items, that would have otherwise been discarded or recycled, to be remade into a brand new product, without the addition of anything newly manufactured.
Upcycling is a way to give your old things a ‘new life’ and can often be even more environmentally friendly than recycling!
Examples of upcycling include the way designers have stylishly made handbags, belts, phone holders and other accessories from thrown away fire hoses, expired boat sails, parachutes and much more! Preloved shirts have been remade into brand new skirts, skateboards into fashionable earrings and bangles, and old glass bottles have even been made into houses, as in the case of Earthship buildings! (an Earthship is a completely environmentally sustainable “off-grid” home, powered with solar power and built from upcycled materials, such as dirt-filled tyres).
Upcycling is most popular in the world of fashion, where second hand clothing is being seamlessly refashioned into new trendy creations by innovative designers.
The word ‘Upcycle’ began being used in the 90s, as people started to become more aware of environmental damages caused by industry. It was publicly popularised by the book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” written by William McDonough and Michael Braungart and published in 2002. The emphasis was on lengthening the lifespan of new items versus throwing them away, setting the scene for upcycling today.
1| Upcycle Cuts Out The Smokey Middle Man
Upcycling is better than recycling in that it cuts out the need to process the recyclable goods further in an additional industrial process. For example, recycling plastic or metals requires that they be melted down, which still consumes energy and leaves a carbon footprint to further deplete our ozone layer. Upcycling those same items of plastic or metal would cut out that industrial process, not harming the environment at all and bringing a new product into the economy, such as art, furniture, containers or clothing.
2| Upcycling Allows Consumers to Retain Consumption Habits
A great point to mention about upcycling is that the concept blends in with our disposable society seamlessly. This generation is hooked on buying new items and are constantly looking for the next new thing to buy. There is enough trash to make entirely new treasures for people to spend their money on, without disturbing the global take-away, throw-away mind set.
3| Upcyling Encourages a New Rise of Creativity
Upcycling is far more creative and innovative than standard recycling. If everybody stopped buying 100% new items today and started upcycling, probably our society will become far more inventive.
4| Upcycling in Fashion Reduces Waste that Recycling Can’t
15% of all fabric used in the fabrication of the clothing you are wearing right now was actually wasted, left to lie on the factory floor, before being tossed out and left in a landfill. With new eco-trends, upcycling fashion designers have started to take these scraps and use them in beautiful refashioned clothing items. Most people would not be able to tell the difference between an upcycled garment and a brand new one, so keep your eyes peeled for upcycled clothing!
5| Upcycling Creates Safer Job Opportunities
If businesses turned to upcycling rather than manufacture, millions of workers in huge factory work shop environments would be able to quit their jobs and get safer work! In the textile industry, workers suffer from harsh chemicals and are at risk of many health concerns due to exposure. This could all be done away with, with these workers utilising waste to make new products or investing back in natural production methods that are not costly on our planet’s health.