Most of us are pretty familiar with the “3 Rs”: reduce, reuse, recycle. But upcycling is still a newer idea for many of us.
Oxford Dictionaries defines upcycle this way: “Reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.”
This is different from recycling, where materials are broken down and made into products of similar or even lesser value - which is why it’s sometimes referred to as “downcycling".
Juicy Green Mom has a great explainer here.
How does it help the planet?
Using existing unwanted or discarded materials reduces consumption of new raw materials. Transforming raw materials into a form ready to be used in the products we buy often needs a lot of energy, water, or harmful chemicals - whether it’s fabric, plastic, wood, rubber, or nearly anything else consumer products are made of.
A bag made of seatbelts? Or tires?
With upcycling, the possibilities are nearly endless. Seatbelts can be woven into a fashionable new bag. Used tires can have new life as a backpack. An old skateboard can become earrings or a beautiful bowl. Discarded cement bags can be transformed into a sturdy and funky laptop case.
There are plenty of DIY options too. Making beeswax wraps is an on-trend way to upcycle smaller scraps of fabric leftover from other projects, reducing plastic waste from single-use plastic cling wrap.
Upcycling is just one of the ways we can reduce the impact of our consumption habits on the planet. It’s exciting to see new ideas constantly emerging from creative craftspeople and entrepreneurs around the world who look at unwanted items and see new possibilities.