ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Politics and Social Issues»
  • Environment & Green Issues

The Importance of Re-Purposing

Updated on February 23, 2011

Burn it or Bury It

The term re-purposing has recently entered the popular lexicon along with the term upcycle. Both these two words connote important new ideas about recycling. Imagine the world suddenly stopped producing new consumer items tomorrow. How would we survive? The answer is by re-purposing and upcycling.

There can be no doubt that the world’s natural resources are being placed under greater and greater strain by growth in human population and its demands for food, water and other consumer items. Oil, water, wood are all natural resources that we use with profligacy. So much of what we buy has planned obsolescence. And when we are finished with a product we throw it away either to later burn it or to bury it.

Upcycling and Downcycling

Recycling was the first step in changing this draining paradigm. The first large scale recycling projects were mostly downcycling. This is when the waste products such as aluminum cans, newspapers and plastic bottles are gathered in large volumes and then crushed, melted or otherwise processed to produce a basic, raw material such as aluminum or paper pulp that can be used to make other goods. Downcycling only works with large volumes (almost encouraging consumption) and needs heavy investment in terms of machinery, transport, equipment etc. Some downcycled products such as plastics make a commercial loss and need to be subsidized.

Downcycling is part of the same mindset as the problem it seeks to address: it is a carbon costly enterprise that deals in large volumes and mechanized processes.

Upcycling is very different in nature. Upcycling is all about being imaginative, using human skills and escaping the mechanized and robotized conveyor belt. Upcycled goods are unique rather than uniform and need people not machines.

Examples of upcycled products are sandals made from truck tires, models made from coke cans, hats made from reclaimed knits, laptop cases made from old wetsuits. These are all products that have added value to the materials they were made from. That is why it is upcycling – it is making something more valuable.

As you can see upcycling and re-purposing are very similar. To find a new purpose for a discarded item is to upcycle if that purpose has a viable commercial value.

We can re-purpose our own waste directly or we can buy upcycled products. Amazon now stocks a few upcycled goods and also sells books with upcycling projects described. The internet is also a great resource for ideas about re-purposing and upcycling.

Imagination for the Future

In the future companies will make products that are upcycle friendly – in other words, they will be designed to be taken apart and reused. Likewise, if we must use plastic then plastics should be made durable and amenable to alteration and re-purposing. Otherwise, we should only be making biodegradable plastic. These are the only viable solutions to the plastic pollution that is clogging up rivers, seas and piling up in landfill sites everywhere because the downcycling of plastic involves so much carbon expenditure it is largely defeating its own purpose.

Finally, local communities will follow the Dutch example and put out all their interesting rubbish – furniture, clothes, books etc. – and people with certain re-purposing and upcycling skills will be able to find materials free of charge. This means their products can be competitively priced and tax payers’ money needn’t be spent on trucks to collect and dispose of the rubbish.

People will learn skills and develop an instinct for re-imagining products. If the world stopped making consumer goods tomorrow, the world would not end. We would still be able to get clothes, furniture, toys, bags, shoes, ornaments and electrical devices only they would all be unique and made from already existing products. There might be an initial period of confusion and shortage, but eventually the world would be made a place of little litter and much less pollution. And also without the lure of consumer items to buy, people might re-assess their former infatuation with ‘money’ and ‘career’. Or maybe I imagine too far.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)