According to the Federal Statistical Office, every German produces an average of 476 kilograms of household waste per year. But you could actually make something out of a lot of this waste. In addition to recycling, you have probably heard of upcycling. But what is upcycling, how does it work and how does it differ from recycling and downcycling? We will tell you in this blog post.
Definition: What is upcycling?
Upcycling is undoubtedly very trendy, but not everyone knows what to do with this term. Put simply, one could say that upcycling is about creating something new from old things. Supposed waste is therefore reused, just as is the case with recycling and downcycling. And yet these three measures differ from each other in terms of how they are carried out.
As you probably know, waste products are collected, sorted, processed and reused in classic recycling – without the newly created products losing their value . This creates a cycle in which returnable bottles made of glass or plastic, for example, are constantly processed and reused, which significantly extends the lifespan of raw materials . You can recognize recycled products by certain symbols, such as the well-known “green dot”.
Downcycling is also about recycling waste products, but these lose value because they are processed into lower-quality products, for example. Here they are first broken down into their basic components, mixed with other substances and finally processed further. The raw materials often have to be transported over long distances and the energy costs are relatively high, which some view critically. Nevertheless, this method is definitely preferable to disposal and incineration of waste, as it actively contributes to waste avoidance and recycles raw materials, which is fundamentally positive.
Upcycling , on the other hand, is the exact opposite of downcycling, because this type of processing gives the waste products a higher value than before . Fortunately, there is a trend in fashion right now to make sneakers, bags or other items of clothing out of old plastic bottles or truck tarpaulins. In this way, these waste products get a new and, above all, higher value and can be sold on. However, it should be said that when washing such clothing, microplastics can get into the groundwater, which is problematic for the environment.
Nevertheless, this upcycling trend in the fashion industry sends a good signal and can be seen as a statement for waste avoidance . Many fashion labels and organizations also donate part of the income to charitable causes, such as environmental protection.
In general, one can say that upcycling, recycling and downcycling all make their contribution and there is no one 100% clean recycling method. Waste cannot be completely avoided, but recycling and processing raw materials can be preserved for a long time and provide real added value. We offer you various products in our online shop, such as our sustainable firelighters . We make these from the trimmings of our beeswax wraps, as these are ideal. It’s best to try our firelighters for yourself and discover them in our shop .
We also make super practical upcycling products from our fabric leftovers – such as our hot -water bottle belt or our wall organizer , which can also be used as a “cloth holder” for storing beeswax cloths.
That’s why upcycling is worthwhile
Upcycling is a great way to get creative and create something new out of junk. You too can do upcycling and have certainly done it often, even if you weren’t always aware of it. For example, if you make a snow globe out of an old jam jar or build a coffee table out of old Euro pallets, then that is a good example of upcycling in everyday life. After all, you give these things a new and higher value.
At the same time, with DIY projects like this, you are sending a clear signal against excessive consumption in our society. Instead of buying new furniture or decorative pieces, you lend a hand and build or create your own pieces. This is not only useful and a great sign of sustainability in everyday life, but above all it is a lot of fun.
On the other hand, anyone who keeps buying everything new and throwing away things that can actually be reused or converted is wasting resources unnecessarily and is clearly contributing to the increased amount of waste in our world. As already explained, upcycling is not the holy grail or even the final solution to the global waste problems, nor is it better or worse than downcycling and recycling. But it is still a measure that each of us can actively implement.
On the Internet, for example, you can find many great instructions and tutorials on Pinterest, in social networks or in various blogs that can serve as a source of inspiration for your own projects. With your upcycled furniture, clothes or objects, you can perfectly underline your own personality and, for example, furnish your apartment according to your ideas. There are almost no limits to your imagination here.
Excursus: The history of upcycling
The recycling and upgrading of garbage and discarded objects is certainly nothing new. Nevertheless, we would like to briefly explain to you how the concept came about in recent years:
The term was first mentioned in 1994 in the British newspaper “Salvo”: In an article there, the German engineer Reiner Pilz sharply criticized recycling, which he basically described as downcycling. Even back then, his own company, Pilz GmbH, relied on the recycling of raw materials: when demolishing a house, for example, they refrained from shredding the building rubble as is normally the case, but instead took care not to destroy the bricks if possible. So they could use them again when building a new house. In the meantime, Reiner Pilz’ neologism upcycling has established itself as an independent term and has long been part of our everyday usage.
In summary, it can be said that upcycling is a great way to use a little imagination and creativity to create something new, practical and beautiful from supposed garbage. Instead of wasting resources, they are upgraded during upcycling and, ideally, repurposed in such a way that they will be useful for many years to come – even if it’s just as a beautiful work of art for your own four walls.
By buying upcycled products, such as clothing made from plastic waste, you make a clear statement and, in the best case scenario, even support charitable projects that are committed to protecting the environment. On the other hand, if you upcycle yourself and tackle your own projects, you will definitely save yourself a lot of money.
It’s also just fun when you can let off steam creatively and implement your own DIY projects. Upcycling is not the solution to all problems, but in combination with recycling and downcycling it sets an example for more sustainability and the protection of our environment.
Take a look around our online shop and discover our upcycling and many other products that make your life a little more sustainable, beautiful and above all easier.