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Upcycling

the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value

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Upcycling Turns Trash into Something Useful

  • Mar 11, 2010
Rating:
+4

Seat belt purseThe term upcycling hit the mainstream due to William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.  Upcycling simply means taking something that seemed to be destined for the trash and turn it into something useful. This results in less waste and even can save money through reusing and not having to buy again. 

An example of upcycling is the photo on the right.  It is a handbag that is made from 100% recycled seat belts, which would have been destined to go to the trash.

Many companies and individuals today are finding very creative ways to turn items destined for landfills into products that can be sold. A true green enterprise. Examples of upcycled products on the market today are: reusable bags made from old plastic bags, recycled plastic bottles or t-shirts, purses made from used seat belts. TerraCycle, Inc. now has many products that fall under the category of being upcycled. They sell bags which are made from Oreo wrappers and even backpacks made from Capri Sun drink pouches. 

You can have fun with upcycling. You can take items from your home and with your children come up with craft ideas made from recycled materials.  Make sure your items are safe and clean before using them.  Maybe you can make things that you can sell to others.  You can make money while reducing your carbon footprint.

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April 28, 2010
Clay, thanks for another insightful contribution. My only quibble is that I'm not entirely certain of the difference between upcycling and downcycling. I would like to see materials that are engineered to be used for exactly the same purpose again and again, indefinitely. There are many examples, but carpet is one where any type of carpet can be recovered, reprocessed and reused for new, high-grade carpet. Of course, there are challenges for materials engineering, but there are many fantastic things being done, e.g., the design of artificial atoms, that I believe 100% recyclable materials can be invented for all the things we make. Please check out our Recycle Everything website, www.rebk.org. Let's work together to push these ideas!
 
April 12, 2010
Nifty. Now, how much more potential if... when brands build in potential second uses to continue once the first has expired, or in complement vis packaging? The imagination is out there, the matchmaking is too (via such as http://www.Junkk.com). Now all we need is the will t provide ever more means.
 
March 11, 2010
Wow, I'm learning so many new words from your reviews, Clay!  I've always been a big fan of this concept.  I've seen all sorts of neat things made with bottles, bottle caps, seatbelts, etc.  English Retreads even make cool-looking handbags with tires.  Thanks for sharing this!  More people should upcycle :)
March 12, 2010
Thank you. I saw the review on English Retreads. They are a great example of upcycling. Cool product instead of sitting around as a piece of trash somewhere.
 
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About the reviewer
Clay Miller ()
Ranked #2
Graphic designer/illustrator and owner of Miller Creative Designs, LLC who on Lunch.com likes to shareinsight on Greenand health insight, ideas and other tidbits.Creator/writer of Ways2GoGreen .com& … more
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About this topic

Wiki

The first recorded use of the term upcycling was by Reiner Pilz in an interview by Thornton Kay of Salvo in 1994.
 
The term upcycling was also used by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. They state that the goal of upcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials by making use of existing ones. This reduces the consumption of new raw materials when creating new products. Reducing the use of new raw materials can result in a reduction of energy usage, air pollution, water pollution and even greenhouse gas emissions.
 
Upcycling has seen an increase in use due to its current marketability and the lowered cost of reused materials.
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