Upcycling and its hidden benefits

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Photo Credit: Sean K

Upcycling is a relatively new term that found its way into our vocabulary as late as 2002 even though the idea behind it had been talked about in 1996 in a German book, Cradle to Cradle.

It is important to get a common definition of the term upcycling. Good upcycling can be seen as a form of art as it is all about taking something and turning it into something else of higher value without bringing down the intrinsic value of the material. There are those who call upcycling “making old things better”. A good way to understand this is through an example.

When you pick up a discarded piece of wood from a furniture workshop, and you shape it to make a pendant for a necklace that is upcycling. The value of the wood has not been degraded, yet you have made something valuable from the same piece of wood.

Upcycling & Recycling

Upcycling is usually used interchangeably with recycling, but even though they are both useful in their own way, there is a distinct difference between them. In recycling the value of the material is degraded whereas in upcycling it remains the same, as seen with the piece of wood in the example above.

An example of recycling is when you take plastic soda bottles, melt them down, mix them with other forms of plastic and so producing a mixed product. This new product is not as strong or as durable as the original plastic. It is then shredded and turned into jacket linings. In this case the value of the virgin material (plastic) has been degraded.

This is not to say that recycling is bad. Far from it. Recycling is just another form of improving our waste management, and at the rate we are going, any method is very welcome.

Benefits of Upcycling

Even a cursory glance at the internet is enough to make us realize that we are facing a waste materials crisis. The amount of waste that finds itself into landfills is alarming. This has produced so much carbon dioxide that it has started affecting our atmosphere negatively.

The only way out is by reducing our waste. Upcycling has been made easy by the presence of removal companies. Simply ensure that you have a bin to place all your upcyclables in, and an experienced and well-equipped team you choose to hire will take it away for you without any stress.

Waste Reduction

The surest way of helping our planet to heal is by reducing the amount of waste that we produce. Upcycling is very good at this because instead of looking for virgin materials to make our products, like the pendant mentioned above we use material that would have otherwise found itself in the rubbish heap.

By reducing the need to use new materials, we are effectively cutting down drastically on both air and water pollution, and at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Studies show that by upcycling one ton of fabric, the amount of carbon dioxide that is prevented from finding its way into the atmosphere is about 20 tons.

Less Virgin Material Harvested

Another good outcome of the point above is that upcycling ensures that the harvesting of virgin material is greatly slowed down. The result of this is that we will have fewer oil wells being drilled because the need for fresh plastic is reduced, less mining for metals to produce aluminium, steel, copper and other metals as the demand for them will be greatly decreased.

With paper and wood products being upcycled, there will be little need of cutting trees down so they can get the time to grow and take in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This means the act of degrading the land will be slowed down.

Money Saver

When you learn to upcycle, you will find that you undoubtedly save money. This is because there is no need to buy as many new things as you were doing before.

Change of Focus

With the reduction of the waste going into landfills, the resources the government needs to manage landfills will go down. The government can then inject the funds saved from this process to other government funded projects such as health and education, and by doing this, grow the country’s long-term GDP.

Enhanced Creativity

As we start thinking of new and effective ways of upcycling, we can let our creative skills run wild. The more creative we are, the more ideas we can come up with, making the whole process a fun exercise instead of it being a chore.

The most important thing we need to remember about upcycling is that it helps us preserve and protect the precious natural resources which are quickly being depleted.

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