‘What is junk to some, is a treasure to others’. The pros of upcycling are that there are no rules and limits, one can go total bonkers. There will be no right and wrong on what you create with the concept of upcycling.

©www.community.materialtrader.com

The words recycling and upcycling are interchangeably used but there lies a thin line between the two being equally beneficial for the environment. Recycle entails breaking down old items into its raw material e.g.: plastic, paper, glass, etc. to create new items to reduce the negative impact of old production.

Upcycling takes previously used products and repurpose them with new or of equal value without the use of any additional energy. Also, the upcycle strives to minimal or no use of any additional new product or material during its process. Hence. Yes! It is a sustainable and cost-effective concept which however requires brains for innovation and time for execution.  

The herd ideology of consumerism and capitalism has stimulated the Anthropocene and hence production and consumption become an integral debatable component in our lifestyles. The desire of new is greed which develops an attitude of hoarding our home losing the importance of commodities.

©magazine.wharton.upenn.edu

The morality to upcycle at the small stage at home rather than someone else doing it for us as ‘many hands make light work’ in conserving the environment, conserving limited resources, encouraging creativity and innovation, reducing overwhelmed waste collection, reduces the cost of production and supports local industries.

The ideologies of upcycling remain vast with its promising applications in the following streams

  1. Art
  2. Architectural Designing
  3. Industries
  4. Libraries
  5. Fashion and Clothing
  6. Food
  7. Technology
  8. Product Design Processes
  9. Landscaping resources
  10. Construction and Demolition

Benefits of Upcycling

1. Environmental Impact

Currently, we are living in and around the trash crisis. Our atmosphere has higher CO2 levels in history, land, and oceans are somewhere close to turning into trash yards. Upcycling has a positive impact on our surroundings as the waste gets reused and reduces new waste production by reducing waste in landfills.  

By reducing the consumption of new materials we break the chain of using extra raw materials and natural resources. All these lead to low land, air, water pollution, and emission in greenhouse gases. Hence, a positive impact on the environment. 

2. Social Impact

The modernization has made individuals available each and everything at our doorstep. However, people have changed and now strive for customized things and services rather than mass-produced. The culture of DIY also encouraged children to think creatively.

Creating upcycling products and services for people supports small industries, artisans, and locals. Buying these products helps in supporting the cause and various communities around the world with the same mindsets stimulating community circular economy. 

3. Personal Impact

The personal impact is the fact of knowing that one is contributing to promoting a healthier environment being part of the change. A few of the examples around will self-motivate in taking up this creative process on your own. One thing will lead to another and teach you many new skills on its way. E.g. reusing clothes to make bags will teach you sewing and necessary skills, reusing small products inside the house will give rise in new items every few months. The process and the outcome will be worth a pat on your shoulder.  

©www.googleimages.com

Following are various ways few countries are taking the culture and concept of upcycling to a whole new level:

1. Palletfest, upcycling fest in Denver 

Started in 2014, people behind this fest are passionate about breathing new life into waste materials and especially wooden shipping pallets. The fest is filled with repurposed pallets in innovative and useful ways. This creative process and initiative reverses the down cycle approach and welcomes locals and all enthusiasts to meet people form upcycling studios presenters, retailers, recyclers, and manufacturers to form a community striving for better neighborhoods. 

Palletfest, upcycling fest in Denver - Sheet1
The pallet maze @www.confluence-denver.com
Palletfest, upcycling fest in Denver- Sheet2
Upcycled pallet bookshelf @bethpartin.com
Palletfest, upcycling fest in Denver- Sheet3
Dining Table from pallets @denver.cbslocal.com

2.  Ocean Sole, Kenya

Kenyan company Ocean Sole by Julie Church, started in 1997 crafts pieces of art installation, toys, jewelry, etc. from discarded rubber flip-flops from other junk and piles of rubbish accumulated along the sandy beaches in Kenya. A trade and business-based solution for native people and the global problem of marine pollution helping the locals in daily earning and contributing to supporting the cause of awareness.

Ocean Sole, Kenya- Sheet3
Local artisan carving the soles in a workshop in 2005, Nairobi ©edition.cnn.com
Ocean Sole, Kenya - Sheet1
Elephant rubber installations made of flip flops ©oceansoleonline.com
Ocean Sole, Kenya - Sheet2
Elephant rubber installations made of flip flops ©oceansoleonline.com

3. Re-tuna (mall), Eskiltuna, Sweden

Re-Tuna is the world’s first upcycling/recycling products mall in Eskilstuna, Sweden (around 100km from Stockholm) an initiative led by Anna Bergstrom. Re-Tuna is a two-storey building of second hand, upcycled, recycled, and repurposed items with 14 shops covering products from clothing, furniture, DIY, tools, and everything at affordable prices.

All unwanted items are collected at ‘Returen’ then distributed to recycling shops and innovators for repurposing. They can choose whatever they want and can repair, convert, and refine for its new identity and value ultimately for sale at Re-Tuna. Not just a marketplace Re-Tuna also organizes events, lectures, workshops for the people of the city for awareness and inculcating the culture of upcycling.

Re-tuna (mall), Eskiltuna, Sweden - Sheet1
Entrance lobby of Re-Tuna mall ©www.dailyscandinavian.com
Re-tuna (mall), Eskiltuna, Sweden- Sheet2
One of the furniture shop inside the mall ©www.theguardian.com
Re-tuna (mall), Eskiltuna, Sweden - Sheet3
The view of the mall building from outside ©www.bbc.com
Ruchi Kumbhani
Author

RuchiKumbhani is currently a final year B. Arch student at PVP College of Architecture, Pune. She is a curious mind & travel enthusiast. With few days of intense binge indoors to days of cycling outdoor, she loves to observeinterrelationship of different settings/spaces and penning her thoughts over it.

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