Upcycling vs Recycling – What’s the Difference?

Upcycling v Recycling

Upcycling vs Recycling – What’s the difference?

Many people have heard of upcycling and recycling but what is the difference? You may think upcycling and recycling are the same thing but there are a few differences you might not have thought about. There are definitely some subtle differences to clearly define the battle of Upcycling vs Recycling.

Upcycling vs Recycling – What is Upcycling?

Upcycling is the activity of redesigning any old or disused materials into quite literally anything in the world. The new product created usually demands higher value than the original item. Furthermore, upcycling can be as small as putting a lick of paint on a chair leg or making a coffee table from a few planks of wood. In addition to this, have a look at our post, What is Upcycling and why is it important?

What are the main advantages of Upcycling?

The main advantages of upcycling are:

  • Reduce waste
  • Engage in less screen intense activities
  • Save money from purchasing new goods
  • Learn new skills

What is Recycling and how is it different to Upcycling?

Recycling, where waste materials transform into items or objects. The purpose of recycling, to reduce the amount of conventional waste which is usually difficult to dispose of.

Upcycling and recycling are very similar concepts. However, to define upcycling, many different disused materials to create something new, most likely, unique and something of high valuer and high quality.

You may define upcycling as a specific version of recycling. Upcycling is where someone creates bespoke and special object, such as artwork like a sculpture or a table made from an old pallet. Moreover, recycling is more of a production line batch method, for example, plastic bags made from plastic bags.

Horse Head, Horseshoe, Cutlery, Art, upcycling ideas, upcycled silverware

A horse head made from cutlery.

What is an example of Upcycling?

There are many examples of upcycling and the possibilities are endless. Examples such as making jewellery from shells, buttons or even cutlery, chairs and tables made from old wood or metal.

Upcycling recycling ideas

A guitar made from a skateboard.

The beauty of upcycling’s limited by your imagination. Both upcycling and recycling will benefit yourself and the environment in many ways.

What things can be upcycled?

There are an unlimited amount of ‘things’ which can be upcycled. The definition of upcycling as we explain in What is Upcycling Why is it important? is to make use of and make anything out of old or used things or waste materials. Therefore, you will see a lot of pallets into chairs, cable reels into coffee tables, old curtains used as upholstery fabric and much more. Similar to recycling, the main reason of upcycling is to reduce the amount of waste getting sent to landfill. It just so happens that so many people enjoy to upcycle and reusers have found a creative flow in the development of some amazing designs.

Upcycling vs Recycling – What is the purpose of Upcycling?

The main purpose of upcycling is to make an object from old, disused materials. There are many reasons to why people may want to upcycle. These reasons serve a purpose in an environmental fact as upcycling is a specific area of recycling. In addition to this, people may believe upcycling is a part of their lives they see as a good method to help the future of the planet. Also, as upcycling is a function of recycling it prevents more waste going to landfill and reduces the amount of brand new purchases effectively reducing deforestation and other planet damaging behaviours.

Upcycling is a great hobby for anyone to begin. Not only due to the environmental factors but also the fact that there are so many areas of upcycling you don’t need any prior knowledge. All skills are learnt along the way whether that’s from a specific upcycling workshop, youtube or DIY shows.

Our forum could help many beginners start their first upcycling project and continue to assist in future projects too!

Upcycling vs Recycling – How does Upcycling help the environment?

As a form of recycling, upcycling, can definitely help the environment. Upcycling and recycling are very similar processes which both follow the 6 R’s; Reinvent, refuse, reduce, reuse/repair, recycle and replace. Upcycling is closely matched to recycling except for a few minor differences, upcycling can help the environment similarly to recycling.

Upcycling and recycling can both help the environment because people can comply with at least some of these R’s. The meaning of upcycling is to reinvent any material and reuse it. Furthermore, upcycling and recycling both help the environment by reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and to reduce the amount of deforestation caused from buying new products.

What is Upcycled material?

Upcycled materials literally are anything in the entire world. Although, a difficult to specify question, some off cut timber from other odd jobs around the house or an old pair of curtains are just a few examples of upcycled material. Upcycled materials are anything you imagine. It’s all dependent on what you want to make, the possibilities are endless.

Is Upcycling sustainable?

You may argue that upcycling is something which is sustainable as a part of recycling. However, recycling is much more of a sustainable action to make a much larger difference to the world. Recycling definitely looks like it’s making a major impact in the world. This is due to production level measures in place to try and combat the huge amounts of waste produced everyday. Therefore, recycling plants can produce massive amounts of recycled products in comparison to a few people making a chair from a few off cuts of wood.

For example, raw materials used in the construction industry seen as waste after a job should get passed down to other areas, e.g given to budding upcycler’s. There’s a massive potential for a larger market of upcycling to start to make a difference as recycling already does.

Either way upcycling is not fighting against recycling. Upcycling and recycling are working together for the bigger picture to reduce waste and in effect, the worlds carbon footprint.

If you are a beginner please check out the forum and ask a question, I’m sure many people can help out with queries you may have. Hopefully you will have a better idea of what kind of project you want to start with and which forum to post on if you get stuck. Meanwhile if you are a more experienced upcycler then I hope you have gained some inspiration to work on a new area of upcycling or an idea for your next project and also help answer some forum questions if you have the time.

Please head on over to the forum to ask questions and also see our other blog posts on everything upcycling.

Furthermore, check out our instagram page @UpcyclerLife to see inspiring projects and #upcyclerlife for a chance of a feature.

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