Upcycling Vs Recycling: What You Need To Know

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Upcycling Vs. Recycling

You have to either be living under a rock or a climate change denier to not notice the changes our planet is going through. The polar ice caps are melting, forests are burning, and carbon fumes continue to litter the atmosphere.

It’s never been more important for human beings to come together and work towards a better future. Granted, many of the negative changes are caused by big corporations.

It can sometimes feel that, no matter how hard we try, climate change can never be reversed until businesses change their ways. 

Nevertheless, you can’t use this as an excuse. We can still take steps to improve the environment by changing our own lifestyle habits. Two things spring to mind: upcycling and recycling. Upcycling vs recycling – what is the difference?

You’ve probably heard about recycling, but what is this other term? If you carry on reading, you’ll find everything you need to know:

What Is Recycling?

Let’s briefly run through recycling as it will help you understand the differences and similarities between it and upcycling. Recycling is the act of taking materials and using them again.

Typically, products are broken down and then recycled as materials used in other products. For instance, a plastic bottle gets recycled, and the plastic is used to make another bottle. 

What Is Upcycling?

Upcycling follows a similar principle, but with a slight twist. The purpose is to take something old and turn it into something new and improved. The original product has been reused, but it is now transformed into a much better product than before.

With recycling, the products/materials are often put through various processes that break them down. In turn, you’re typically left with something of a lower quality than before.

Going back to the plastic bottle example, recycled plastic is of a lower quality than its original form. 

This is the crucial difference between recycling and upcycling; upcycling looks to maintain the quality and make it even better. Imagine you have an old sofa that needs to be thrown away.

You could take it to a recycling centre and get it stripped down and recycled. Or, you could upcycle it and turn it into a brand new product. 

When Does It Make Sense To Upcycle?

To be honest, upcycling makes sense whenever there’s an opportunity to create something new from something old. This will depend on the quality of the materials you have at your disposal.

If you’ve got an old chair with rotting wood, you probably can’t upcycle it. But, if it’s in excellent condition, it makes more sense to strip it down and use the material to create a new product. 

When Does It Make Sense To Recycle?

Recycling makes sense when something can’t be reused or upcycled! Certain products or materials just aren’t suitable to be reused and would be better off recycled.

Generally, it makes sense to see if you can upcycle something before you recycle it. Purely because you can extend the lifespan of a product/material by using it again. 

Which Option Is Best?

So, out of upcycling and recycling, which is best? It’s actually a tough question to answer as there are so many things to consider.

For starters, recycling is a lot easier for most people to do. Imagine you have an old metal bed frame that you no longer want to use.

To recycle it, you contact companies like Norstar that will take care of it for you. To upcycle it, you need to take the bed apart and learn how to make something out of metal.

Or, you have to look around for someone to take it off your hands. In that situation, you must trust that they will actually upcycle it and won’t just throw it away. It’s easier to recycle, making it more accessible for the general public. 

However, you could argue that upcycling is better for the planet as you get more out of your materials. The same piece of wood could be turned into dozens of products by being upcycled throughout its life.

By contrast, if it were recycled, you would have a worse quality material to use again – and things can only be recycled a set number of times. So, from the planet’s perspective, you could argue upcycling wins. 

Nevertheless, it’s impossible to pick a winner between the two. The safest answer is that you should consider both options when living a sustainable life.

Both concepts will reduce waste and reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere. So, the next time you think about throwing something away, consider if it can be upcycled. If it can’t, recycle it instead!

You can find much more information on living a holistic lifestyle in these free magazines and on our YouTube channel.

Upcycling Vs. Recycling
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