What is upcycling and what can you upcycle?

If an item you own is tired, damaged or no longer fit for purpose, you could upcycle it. We take a look at what upcycling is and how it works.

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Image source: Getty Images.

If a product or item in your house is damaged or tired or no longer fit for its original purpose, you could upcycle it and give it a new lease of life. This not only helps the environment but saves your hard-earned money. Here’s what you need to know.


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What is the difference between recycling and upcycling?

To upcycle means to transform an item you would consider as tired, damaged or unwanted into an object of higher quality or value. In other words, you are adapting or repurposing the item.

Recycling is different. It is the act of processing an item you would consider as waste to convert it into a new product. In most cases, recycling is carried out by recycling companies.

What is an example of upcycling?

An excellent example of upcycling could be adapting an old wooden ladder into a simple set of shelves. Another example is repurposing your old car tyres to make garden planters. Old walking boots can make great planters as well.

The list is endless. All you need is creativity. If you’re unsure of the best way to upcycle something, you’ll be able to find some great ideas online. For example, you could simply Google ‘car tyre upcycling ideas’ to find a wealth of ideas, instructions and even tutorial videos on YouTube for guidance.

What is an upcycling project?

This is the actual process of transforming an old item into an object of higher quality or value. It involves a number of steps you need to take to upcycle the item.

For example, if you want to turn an old mirror frame into a vertical garden frame, you would:

  • Clean the frame and fix any damaged parts
  • Carve a design, paint it or stick some aesthetic stones on it
  • Attach some mesh if your needs require it

The upcycling project in this example is the process of turning an unwanted mirror frame into a vertical garden frame that will serve a purpose.


Why do we need to upcycle?

By upcycling, you get to make the most of your item, save some money and protect the environment.

Saving money

It’s a bit obvious, but you save money when you use something you already own instead of buying something new. Additionally, you might choose to sell what you’ve created and make some extra money.

Protecting the environment

Not throwing away that piece of furniture, old fabric or broken item reduces the waste that goes into landfill. Waste decomposing in landfill emits methane and carbon dioxide. These are greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.

We are encouraged to find ways to reduce waste to make the environment habitable and ensure future generations benefit from it.

What materials can be upcycled?

You can upcycle practically any material. Examples include items made of wood, glass, metal, plastic and fabric. Such items could include, clothing, jewellery and furniture. The list is only limited by your imagination.

Anytime you feel like throwing an item away, why not do some research to find out whether you can upcycle it? You literally have nothing to lose.

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