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What Does Upcycled Mean?

What Does Upcycled Mean?

Diving into conscious consumerism, you’ll find a collective effort for sustainability. Are you wondering how to do your part as a sustainable consumer? You may have seen the term upcycling on social media, but what does it mean?

The upcycling trend involves breathing new life into old material. Instead of generating the same product of lower quality, you make something new!

How can something go up when you recirculate them in the resource cycle? What does upcycled mean? Read more about what upcycling is, how designers use that concept, and how you can too!

What Does Upcycled Mean?

Upcycling and recycling are concepts related to each other, but they aren’t synonymous. Usually, when you think of recycling, you’re actually thinking of downcycling.

To visualize downcycling, think of used office papers getting converted into newspapers. The newspaper material itself might seem like a lower grade of paper compared to its source.

However, a lot of recycling restricts products to what you call a closed loop. In a closed-loop, paper becomes paper, plastic bags to plastic bags.

Upcycling diverts that paper-to-paper destiny of recyclable materials into so much more.

Upcycling allows a more diverse range of products. You can create something new from one or more kinds of discarded material. Unlike recycling, where you end up with similar and inferior products, you make something unique!

Upcycled material goes up the ladder instead of down. Take ocean plastic, for instance. Ocean waste is one of the most heartbreaking consequences of plastic use.

Recycling ocean plastic goes many ways. Many organizations have started converting it into making recycled plastic bags. Manufacturers like Adidas use collected ocean plastic and upcycle them into shoes!

As a new product made from old material, this opens the loop and allows the product to go in different directions after its lifespan!

Recycling vs. Upcycling

Recycling is still a pillar of conscious consumerism and sustainability. Unfortunately, recycling materials often yields products of lower quality. This isn’t because of any shortcomings of efforts, but rather due to the nature of materials.

Breaking things down for repurposing is simpler than building them up. It’s like how catabolism takes less energy than anabolism. Recyclables like glass, metal and paper tend to degrade along the recycling process.

The purpose of upcycling is to refashion these discarded materials. Recycled plastics might make for flimsier plastic bags.

However, the raw material might serve better for bags, cases, and shoes. This makes for more diverse products from repurposed material.

Upcycling focuses on recrafting and transformation. In comparison, recycling is more straightforward and closed-looped.

Benefits of Upcycling

Upcycling is not only a trend with false promises of goodness for the environment. It’s a surefire way for everyday consumers to help the environment. Here are some benefits of upcycling.

1. Reduces Carbon Emissions by Reducing Manufacturing

Factory emissions are one of the leading causes of pollution. Recycling and upcycling extend the lifespan of materials and their purpose. This contributes to the reduction of carbon emissions.

Additionally, upcycling doesn’t only consider the materials but also accounts for the process. These are all efforts to be more sustainable and environmentally healthy, isn’t it? Thus, it would be counterproductive to transform old plant fibers into vegan leather through toxic means.

Look here for upcycled bags made through natural vegetable tanning processes! They exclude toxic manufacturing processes to embody the holistic upcycling practice fully.

2. Minimizes Landfill Waste

Upcycling can reduce landfill waste by cutting waste from the source and the destination. Some foundations go to landfills to collect waste and churn plastic school chairs! Other companies partner with supermarkets as direct waste funnels for materials.

Manufacturers of fruit leather partner up with markets. This makes them first in line to take their discarded produce. Instead of heading to the landfill, the waste gets converted into new material!

3. Lessens the Need to Extract New Resources

New products that require new material force factories to extract new material. These materials are often unethically or unsustainably sourced.

By repurposing existing materials, you reduce this need to mine materials and churn out new components. Additionally, you need less energy to convert new materials vs. repurposing extant materials. Upcycling refreshes and takes advantage of resources already in circulation.

If you want to exercise your skills and support upcycled products, read more! There’s no better way to illustrate what upcycling is than through more examples of innovative upcycling ideas.

Upcycling Ideas

Some companies and manufacturers are taking a page out of conscious consumerism. Right now, there are several projects both by large manufacturers and small businesses that take upcycling to the next level.

There are bags made of fruit leather consisting of discarded produce from supermarkets. Manufacturers partner with waste collection agencies to source plastic.

Plastic is one of the banes of mother nature. However, this nonbiodegradable baddie, when processed, makes good phone cases, shoes, and bags.

Large collections of plastic serve as a good source of building material. Some of these include bricks and furniture. Industrial upcycling generates recycled food packaging and park benches.

This puts into perspective how much waste we have, which is heartbreaking. However, research development and designers work together to find a way to clean up this mess.

You don’t have to be a manufacturer to upcycle! Don’t be afraid to look up the hashtag #upcycle on Instagram, Tiktok, and Twitter for inspiration.

What Does Upcycled Mean? It Means an Upgrade

Now you know the answer to “What does upcycled mean?” and you can get on that environmentally-saving trend! Reusing, reducing, and recycling are the backbone of individualistic eco-friendly efforts. Give new life to your recyclables by bumping them up the chain of command!

Thank you for reading our article on upcycling! Do you want to learn more about environmental wellness? Check out our other blog posts to discover more and start doing your part as a consumer today.

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