Upcycling vs recycling
Upcycling (or creative reuse) is not the same as recycling (downcycling). So what is upcycling? To upcycle is to transform waste material into products that are used. Recycling takes an item and brakes it down, extracting useful materials from it and creating something from scratch. By upcycling you prevent wasting useful materials by making use of existing ones, reducing consumption of new raw material. This results in reduction of energy used, air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Thereby making the world cleaner and healthier.
The process of upcycling takes a lot less energy and is much more environmentally friendly than downcycling. Upcycling in short, gives items more value, whereas recycling breaks things down and then makes new things of lesser value. A simple example is a newspaper. You can upcycle a newspaper into wrapping paper, thereby avoiding having to buy wrapping paper, reducing the demand for it which should lead to less being made. You could also recycle the paper which means shipping it to a recycling station and then making new paper or cardboard from it. Recycling takes energy, time and money whereas upcycling saves you all those things. Another example is secondhand clothing which can easily be reused, sometimes by fixing or altering slightly.
Upcycling or being thrifty
People in developing countries have effectively been upcycling for years, using old packaging and clothing in new ways, although more out of need than for the environment. But upcycling is now taking off in other countries, reflecting an increased interest in eco-friendly and locally sourced products.
The key to upcycling
The key thing is to see everything you don’t use, need or have to throw away as valuable material that can be put to use in some way. And if you don’t need it, try to find someone who does. There are plenty of local Facebook groups where you can advertise raw materials to give away. Let your imagination run wild and always stop to think before you throw anything away.