The dirty, dusty feel of the dull grey paper in your hands and the less than happy smell is the recycled paper from which you read today’s news. That same paper can be thrown away to decay in a dump or be recycled, where parts of it will be transformed into a lesser part of another paper product. Entropy is evident in recycling, where the parts used and “recycled” cannot be wholly maintained in the second cycle and thus downcycling occurs.
In downcycling the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. However, recycling doesn’t always have to mean downcycling. Upcycling is the more resourceful way to go. Upcycling (unlike recycling) is the practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value, leading to a higher material and energy benefits.”
Aforementioned, common recycling is really downcycling. Putting in lots more energy to extend the time for the product to go. We can’t keep recycling the same product because of the degradation in quality of the material and the value. Each iteration brings out a worse product until eventually it reaches its landfill destination. Undoubtedly recycling does still carry it’s benefits especially when we compare it to straight throwing away materials such as plastic or paper. Without recycling we extract more natural resources and create more pollution.
In contrast to downcycling, upcycling maintains the whole of the material because it is simply re-purposed, and not broken down into a lesser form.
Upcycling is an embraced term and fashion. You will already be seeing upcycled goods in the news, at fashion trade shows or on celebrities making a statement. Candy wrapper clutches, purses, cosmetic bags from old juice cartons, bags from the inner tube of bicycle tyres anything you can dream of, even chainmail made from soda can pop tops could form the fabric of your next accessory.
What can you upcycle?
School kids looking for cool stationary, come across upcycling. Anyone and perhaps you yourself may be in possession of a pencil that used to be vending cups? The products on the market cover a vast range from the said vending pencils to pencil cases made from car tyres, notebooks made from old music sheets or elephant excrement (!), anything goes in the world of wacky eco-friendliness.
Why not go one step further and make your own upcycled products? You can be as creative as you like, only the sky’s the limit. Using unwanted plastic bags you can make a Tyvek like material and then further a bag of your design. There are hundreds of tutorials online, clips on youtube show you step by step what to do. With old music sheets or maps you can make gift tags or art for your wall.
This has been just a whirl wind tour to bring your attention to a green trend for the masses. Michael Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle (as opposed to cradle to grave) is the waterproof and potentially life changing book which could ignite a passion for something remade. By being creative we can bring harmony to mother earth.