The Concept of Upcycling

We’re all familiar with the concept of recycling; the process of completely breaking down a product and re-making something completely new out of the raw materials. Upcycling, however, is a creative way to repurpose old things while still maintaining some of their original characteristics. People have been finding new purposes for old things since the dawn of time, but the term ‘upcycling’ was only coined in 1994. It was thought that ‘recycling’ somehow diminished the value of the materials, whereas ‘upcycling’ suggested new value had been added.

Upcycling started trending in 2002, when the book ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things’ was released. The book itself was even made from upcycled plastic and soy. Since then the concept has swept across the globe as people look for more sustainable ways of living. It has also provided a new way for people to express themselves artistically, and some have even made a business out of it.

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The general idea behind these businesses is taking items that people no longer want, be it old furniture or fabrics or household items, and giving them value by turning them into unique products with a new purpose. The more creative the upcycling is, the more unique the product will turn out to be. Think railways sleepers into light fittings, soccer balls into plant pots, vinyl records into coasters, and scrabble pieces into earrings.

Upcycling food has also become extremely popular as people become more aware of the food waste crisis. Around the world, there are organizations and projects that ‘rescue’ crops from farmers that have been deemed unsuitable for sale due to aesthetic reasons, or simply because there was a surplus that harvest. These ‘rescued’ fruits, vegetables and grains are then upcycled into delicious meals, often sold on a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ basis. Upcycling is a great way to live more sustainably, whilst simultaneously providing an outlet for creativity.