You’ve heard of and most likely practice some recycling. But have you heard of upcycling? It’s as the name suggests, using materials for the same or higher purpose tha n they were first used. First coined by William McDonaugh, a renowned architect, designer, and author of Cradle To Cradle he saw that instead of looking at things from a “cradle to grave” perspective, where things are expected to eventually end up in the dump, no longer of any use, we could instead design with reuse in mind, each component a “nutrient” feeding the next use it could be made of. Cradle to cradle, in other words, giving new life to materials once destined for a landfill!
What’s an example of upcycling? Taking billboard material, which is built to withstand the elements – good for longevity, bad for disposal and impractical to recycle – and using it to make backpacks and messenger bags. In doing this, it takes something that would otherwise be seen as an environmental nuisance, and turning it’s downfall into an opportunity, in a new use. And that excites me. Where else can we as individuals and companies take a different path when it comes to what we see as “waste” and what we see as a part of a future use, not just simply something to throw “away.” My company Terracycle is proud to do a lot of upcycling as well, of everything from candy wrappers to record albums.
I think the concepts of recycling and upcycling are important because modern economies are built on consumer goods and spending and whether you think that is right or wrong, the system is likely here to stay. So it is important that we find ways to recycle, reuse and upcycle the massive amount of material that already exists. Because more and more is produced, consumed and discarded every day. What other examples of upcycling have you seen? Is this a viable solution to our waste and landfill issues? I am excited to hear your thoughts.