Upcycling is the New Recycling

Upcycling is the term given to recycling waste by turning it into a new product, often of a higher quality or value than the original product to begin with. It has become very popular of late to upcycle many items for example clothes, suitcases and trunks, but also industrial materials converted to furniture or old kitchen pots and pans converted to garden ornaments.

Social media bookmarking sites such as Pinterest and Instagram are full of project inspiration and have even produced a whole sub-genre of upcycling ‘epic fails’. Upcycling begins and ends with the recycling industry. 75% of solid waste is recyclable, but only 30% is actually recycled worldwide. Recycled materials supply 40% of raw material needs globally making it a green eco-friendly and economical alternative to simply throwing items out.

The industry is also a driving force for employment as 1.6 million people actively work in the global recycling industry and the annual turnover of the recycling industry is $200 billion per year. 600 million recyclables are handled every year. This means that there are huge opportunities to upcycle these recyclable products.

In this infographic (by Dustbox Professional Cleaning Services) called ‘Turning Trash to Treasure’ we highlight five inspiring upcycled products from around the world. These range from old books converted to a statement chair, to an old piano converted to a working garden fountain. We also include instructions and materials for three easy eco-friendly upcycling DIY projects that can be done at home.


Erin Emanuel