What is Upcycling?

When I started Vintage Vinyl Journals in 2011 I used the term upcycle and upcycling when discussing the journals and often got asked to explain what exactly I meant by those terms.  Three years later and I’m getting asked much less to explain what they mean but there are still folks who are new to hearing these terms which wer first recorded being used in 1994.

To upcycle or upcycling is the process of converting old or discarded materials into products of better quality, more useful, or for better environmental value.  Upcycling gives an item a better purpose and usually results in something more beautiful.  It’s the idea of re-making something of greater or equal value to its previous state.

Recycling vs. Upcycling

Recycling takes consumer materials including plastic, paper, metal, glass, and electronics, and breaks them down so their base materials can be remade into a new consumer product, usually a different one that is often of lesser quality.

When you upcycle an item, you aren’t breaking down the materials. You are repurposing it — like cutting a damaged vinyl record and using it has a journal cover — but it’s still made of the same materials as when you started.

Upcycling Is Green

Upcycling makes a positive impact on the environment. When you upcycle, you remove items from the global garbage stream. Upcycling instead of recycling is good too; recycling requires energy or water to break down materials. Upcycling requires your own creativity and elbow grease and possibly some additional small household materials to bring your new product together.

Image from: Upcycled Design Lab

What Can I Upcycle?

The question should really be what you can’t upcycle, as you can upcycle just about anything!  Suitcases, bikes, tires, milk cartons, tin cans, newspapers, toilet paper rolls, old picture frames, wine bottles, jeans, you name it.

Upcycle Inspiration for Spring

With Spring finally here (somebody please tell Mother Nature that Winter is over,) below are some great ways to upcycle and add some color into your home and garden.  (Click on the photo for link on how to make it yourself.)  




Aren’t these great?  Be sure to check out the blog on Wednesday for our very own upcycled wind chimes as well as my upcycling board on Pinterest.

So, what are you waiting for, before tossing something into the trash think about a new way to repurpose it.  If you no longer have a use for it, upcycle it!  Hopefully I’ve inspired you to make a positive impact on the environment and reward yourself with something beautiful or useful as well.  Thank you for stopping by.

Love, Kate

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  1. Reply

    I love the egg carton wreath and wow that pallet art is gorgeous. I love that you explained the difference between upcycling and recycling, some people still might not know if though it is trending. Great post 🙂

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