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While you’re most likely familiar with how to recycle, whether it be recycling plastics or textile recycling, you may not be familiar with upcycling.
Upcycling has grown increasingly popular in the world of sustainability. The Instagram tag #upcycle currently has over five million posts, including images of upcycled art, clothes, DIY furniture, and more. And it’s definitely a trend we want to keep around.
So what does upcycling look like? And how can it help the planet? We’re here to answer all your questions on upcycling—as well as give you some creative upcycling ideas.
By definition, to “upcycle” means to recycle or reuse something in a way that increases the original object’s value. In other words, upcycling is taking something old and creating something new.
The best way to understand upcycling is to compare it to downcycling. Both are types of recycling. Downcycling is the kind of recycling we usually think of—recycling paper or plastic, for example. These materials are broken down and reused to create a product that is considered less valuable than the original. For example, most recycled paper, like old newspapers, is considered to be lower-grade paper.
Upcycling is the same process of reusing old materials, but it creates something more valuable or of a higher quality. Examples of upcycling include using table clothes to make curtains.
Essentially, the difference between downcycling and upcycling is that downcycling creates a lower-grade version of the same thing and upcycling transforms old materials into a new, different, high-quality item.
Upcycling also supports a circular economy. A circular economy is a system in which goods are used and reused multiple times rather than getting discarded after one use. This system is more sustainable because it relies on using what we already have rather than constantly creating new products out of new materials.