Upcycling: Purposeful Repurposing

Trash to Treasure

We have all been versed in the benefits of recycling, but what’s this new term floating around? Upcycling? What’s the difference?!

Simply put, Recycling is when waste is broken down into raw material that will be used to make new products. Upcycling is when waste material is taken in its current state and turned into something new. Many people may not be familiar with the term, but the idea has been around for ages.  Basically, “upcycle” is just a nifty term used to describe repurposed products that have been made with a bit of thriftiness and creativity!

Even though recycling is a great first step, it requires energy to sort, treat and process the waste that will eventually be used to make carpets and fleece jackets. Upcycling, on the other hand, reuses a material without degrading its quality, so energy is not invested into changing its composition for subsequent use. Upcycling not only benefits the environment, but allows us to view materials in a different light by promoting reuse over disposal.

Our artisan partners have found ingenious ways to take everyday waste items and turn them into something spectacular.

Our partner, Creata, from Colombia has upcycled plastic bags to weave this toiletry case and added a Wayuu handwoven accent to make it distinctly unique.

 Our partner in India, Community Friendly Movement, ingeniously constructed votive holders out of broken glass bangles.

Destiny Reflection, a group in India that works with formerly trafficked women, upcycled this blue sari to create a fantastic tote bag.

Upcycling is gaining momentum as the “etsy generation” is placing more value on handmade items and conscious consumers are watching their carbon footprint. The convergence of these two ideas has lead to innovative repurposed products as artisans are giving waste items a new life in extremely creative ways.  So next time your friend comments on the, “lovely recycled bag made of candy wappers” you can politely add that it’s actually upcycled!


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