Thursday, March 21, 2013

What, exactly, is upcycling?

I came across this great article in the IIDA newsletter this week. It seems to be something that really is in keeping with the whole "Designs for the Rest of Us" concept in that it clarifies what upcycling is and how it is done. Read on for ideas on how to give old or unused objects in your home a whole new life, for pennies on the dollar:
These are glasses that were made from old wine bottles-pretty great huh?

Upcycling, recycling, repurposing, sustainability—-though these terms are all related, it’s easy to get them confused from time to time.  The website,MSLK defines upcycling in their green fashion glossary as “The repurposing of a material into a product of higher quality. An example would be a purse made out of woven candy wrappers.”  So what exactly do you need to know about upcycling?  We’ve got you covered!
1. It’s not recycling or “downcycling”
Recycling will turn materials from old or unused items into items of lower quality.  For instance, an item made from a higher grade variety of plastic will then be turned into something new—but it will now be a lower grade variety of plastic.
2. Many prefer small scale upcycling to conventional recycling
This is due to the high energy costs that go into many recycling methods.  Transportation and reconstruction are high factors to consider with recycling, as the items are then transported to a new facility, machinery is used to dissect them, etc.
3. It’s very possible to do it yourself
You may marvel at the DIY superstars on, but upcycling is something you can easily do yourself at home.  Have an old window frame you no longer use?  Cut pieces of cork into each square and make a fun new cork board!  The possibilities are endless.

4. The item doesn’t have to be recyclable
Usually an item is either recyclable, or it is not.  But with upcycling, there is not a required set of specifications that makes an item eligible.  If you think that you can breathe new life into an item, then nothing is stopping you from upcycling it.

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