Recycle or Upcycle- What's the Difference?
Until recently I didn't really know what it meant when you upcycle something. I had seen and heard the word a few times, here and there, but never really took the time to look it up. I am glad I did. In some of my crafting hubs I encourage people to reuse things like paper and glass jars, etc.. but I always refer to it as recycling- which is apparently incorrect now days though still we know what people mean when they say recycling in reference to reusing and repurposing things. It comes down to personal preference as to what you want to call it but there is a bit of a difference between the two. So what exactly is upcycling and what is the difference between that and recycling?
I have always loved to reuse/repurpose things that people would normally throw away or put in the recycle bin- stuff like paperboard, tin cans, aluminum cans, glass jars etc.. This is exactly what upcycling is. You are taking something that usually would be considered trash/disposable or even recyclable and making it into something useful or better. You are improving it in it's original form (without any downgrading process) and making it into something more valuable. Upcycling is a fairly recent trend and with the growing interest in keeping our environment green and clean, it is sure to keep gaining in popularity.
As far as recycling, when you recycle a product it is broken down through a process in which a lot of times it is made into something completely different than what it started out as. Like with plastics, I was surprised to learn just how many things are made just from recycled plastic. What these plastics are made into depends on what kind of resin they are made from. Some of the things made from recycled plastics are:
- fibers for sleeping bags
- flower pots
- plastic recycle bins
- milk jugs
- plastic lumber
and much, much more!
Recycling is and will always be a great thing to do but upcycling is actually even more beneficial because you are saving the energy normally used in the recycling process and even in recycling, there is a by-product of waste during the break down of these products. All in all they both benefit our environment and the end result is the same. They keep things from piling up in the landfills and that's always a good thing. Here are some interesting facts about recycling:
- Speaking of landfills, did you know that the average time it takes for plastic bottles to decompose is 700 years? Go to all-recycling-facts.com to read about this and other interesting facts about recycling.
- According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 2 barrels of oil, and 4,100 kilowatt hours of electricity
- Did you know you can recycle batteries? According to the EPA, batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which can contaminate the environment when batteries are improperly disposed of.
- At Battery Solutions you can purchase a iRecycle Kit to safely dispose all battery types.
- Also, completely free of charge, you can recycle rechargeable batteries and old cell phones at call2recycle. They are the only free rechargeable and cell phone battery program in North America.
- In case you are interested in getting into recycling, you can go to earth911.com to find a recycling center in your area.
Now back to Upcycling! Look at these great items!
Fused Plastic Bag
To me it is kind of like an extreme makeover for what is usually perceived as junk or trash :0) I would like to share some impressive examples of upcycling with you.
Look at this awesome bag found at Etsy Labs Archive. This was made from fusing plastic bags together with an iron-isn't this great? Click on the link for the free tutorial.
Bottle Cap Art
Look at this awesome work of art at Artistic Recycling made completely from bottle caps!
Glass Bottles into Drinking Glasses
How about these drinking glasses that were made from glass bottles. See these and some other photos of DIY drinking glasses out of glass bottles at Ali Does It Herself. There is even a link to a tutorial on how she made them!
Toothbrush Handle Bracelet
Did you know you can upcycle your old toothbrushes into these cute bracelets? Find this tutorial along with other awesome upcycled accessory tutorials at YourKloset Blogazine.
Before I end this hub, I want to say that I do care about the environment but so far that hasn't been my primary reason for reusing and repurposing things. I believe strongly in working with what I have... Believe me, there are a lot of things I would love to purchase to be able to use and work with but I figure why not use things that I always have access to. I can say, however, that after doing a bit of research and learning a few more things about recycling and about the new trend of upcycling, I sure am glad that I try to make the most of what is available to me (and all of us) in pretty much unlimited supply. It's definitely made me more aware of what we are doing to our earth- and it is kinda scary.
I encourage everyone to at least give upcycling a try.. it's lots of fun to take something like a used can or glass bottle and decorate it into something really cute and usable. It's amazing how much out there you can truly make into something new instead of tossing it into the trash. All it takes is a little bit of imagination and creativity :0)
Maybe you are not interested in upcycling as a hobby for yourself but you like the idea and would like to contribute in some way. If you live in the St. Louis Missouri area you are in luck! You can go to The Upcycle Exchange to see a "wish list" for all the materials you can donate for artists and crafters and they will transform your donations into something awesome and brand new. They list the drop off locations on the website. In return for your donations, you will get big discounts on the finished handmade merchandise and even some free stuff too :0)