What is Upcycling? Why is Upcycling Important?

Many people have heard of upcycling in 2020 and seems to keep getting more and more popular. What is upcycling and why is it so important?

Firstly, what does upcycle (or upcycling) mean? Well, to quote the Cambridge dictionary:


noun[ U ]

the activity of making new furnitureobjects, etc. out of old or used things or waste material

– Cambridge Dictionary

Now, more than ever, upcycling appears very attractive for anyone looking at becoming greener or more environmentally friendly. Also to learn new skills such as woodworking, metalworking, painting, upholstery etc.

As you can see through this graphic, the popularity of upcycling has grown massively since around 2009:

It’s clear that upcycling was relatively unknown pre-2009 and since then has developed a large following. Furthermore, people around the world are starting to look to upcycling as a way to make use of anything lying around the house and make it a masterpiece. In addition to this, television shows such as ‘Repair Shop’ and ‘Money For Nothing’ displays the interest in upcycled products in the UK especially. Also, upcycling may seem like recycling although there are a few differences. We also have a post on upcycling vs recycling and what those differences are.

What is an example of Upcycling?

The rise of popularity in upcycling of late has displayed many interesting designs, showing huge creativity in this rising industry. Here are a few examples:

Cafe, Rustic, Outdoor, Furniture, Table, Bank, Patio, upcycled furniture, upcycling, pallet, upcycling ideas

One example is to transform a pallet into a set of garden furniture.

Ornament, Decoration, Vintage, Retro, Light, Exhibit, upcycling, upcycle, upcycling ideas, upcycled lamp, light

An upcycled light.

Retro, Sideboard, Small Table, Green, Blue, Decor, upcycling, upcycling ideas, wood, upcycled furniture

Retro looking sideboard

From just a small selection of examples you can see the possibilities are endless. There isn’t one object that cannot be made into another. Making use of old materials in and around your home is definitely the best way to start your journey into upcycling. Any piece of ‘trash’ or any old bits left in the garage including off cuts from old DIY jobs, you can make into a great piece of artwork or a unique piece of furniture.

Why is Upcycling important?

So, as stated earlier, we know what it means to upcycle. But, why is it important to upcycle?

There are many reasons why someone may begin to start an upcycle project here a just a few:


Upcycle as a way to recycle

People may choose to start a project because they have a concern for the environment. Recycling is a worldwide requirement in order to reduce our carbon footprint, save the lives of animals and to minimise the extraction and use of the rainforests.

too much screen time

Upcycling as a way to reduce screen time

A current problem in today’s world is the constant use of time being spent looking at screens. In addition to this, many of us will have to spend at least 8 hours looking at screens for our jobs. Upcycling is a great way to reduce screen time and get stuck into a great project.

handheld tool lot

Upcycling to learn new skills

Learn many new skills and crafts making your vision become a reality. There are many skills to learn that enable you to be a great upcycler and these skills can be passed on to many other DIY tasks you want to complete.

100 US dollar banknotes

Upcycling to earn a living

Upcycling is one of the many ways people make a living from nowadays. Anyone can start an online store or use popular sites such as etsy to sell their uniquely upcycled products. Whether that be upcycled clothes, upcycled furniture or upcycled art there are many upcycle ideas to sell.

In short, you can see there are clearly many benefits of upcycling. If you have no experience in this industry there is nothing stopping you from making a start. However, where do you start? What aspects of upcycling do you want to look at? We will now go through some of the many different ways you can upcycle.

Upcycling Art

You may argue that all things upcycled is art. Although, many people spend a lot of time and effort into creating their upcycled designs whether it serves a purpose in the home or it’s just something nice to look at. However, to specify on the art in particular there have been great pieces of upcycled art and sculptures. To give you some great upcycle ideas to start your journey, here are some arty examples of upcycling:

upcycled art,

Photography piece from an old computer printed circuit board.

Industry, Container, Urban, Outdoors, Art, Artwork, upcycled art

Art piece made from old barrels.

Goat, Sculpture, Recycle, Folk Art, Art, Animal, Farm, upcycle, upcycling ideas

A goat sculpture.

As above, there are some incredible examples of upcycled art out there. Besides, upcycled products you can purchase but also upcycled art you can created yourself. In addition to this, if you are looking for any inspiration check out the Upcycler Life forum section specific to upcycled art.

Upcycling fashion

The fashion industry is one of the biggest in the world but how many people have heard of upcycling fashion? With the fashion industry as a whole looking for ways to reduce it’s carbon footprint. Secondly, to prevent the further exploitation of workers all these. Upcycled clothes and upcycling fashion clearly can play a huge role in reducing these problems. Here’s an example of upcycling fashion:

orange-and-white low-top sneakers, upcycle, upcycling ideas, upcycled fashion, upcycled clothes

Wrapper shoes.

Many upcycling companies (or brands) have been developing many different upcycle methods using upcycled textiles to create some amazing upcycling products. Although, what is stopping you from being the next upcycling fashion designer? Any ideas on upcycling fashion can be developed and created at home so start now! If you need any inspiration or assistance, head over to the Upcycler Life forum and our specific section dedicated to clothing and accessories.

Upcycling Furniture

One of the most up and coming upcycled products at the minute is upcycled furniture. The recent influx of upcycled products could have been made popular by UK television shows such as ‘Money for Nothing’. In addition to this, posts on social media showing materials upcycled into furniture has made this aspect of upcycling very popular. Furthermore, here are some examples of upcycled furniture:

Chair, Green, Up-Cycle, Recycle, Paint, Furniture, upcycled furniture, upcycling ideas

A pair of lovely upcycled garden chairs.

round brown wooden wall shelf, upcycling ideas, upcycled furniture,

A clever shelving design.

As you can see, there are endless opportunities to make upcycled furniture from many upcycle materials. You can be as creative as you like to make your very own upcycled furniture. However, there are a number of methods and materials you can use on your next upcycle furniture project. Methods such as, woodworking, metalworking and upholstery or a combination of the three.

Upcycling Furniture – Woodworking

Upcycled furniture definitely has grown in popularity and arguably is one of the main aspects of interest towards upcycling. Because of cleverly designed and intuitively selected upcycled materials there are fascinating examples of upcycled furniture all around. Although, much of the upcycled furniture you see is made from wood or includes elements of wood. Now, experience of carpentry would clearly help in upcycling projects, however, there are beginner projects for the novices to upcycling. Here are a few examples of woodworking upcycling projects:

Table, Pallets, Wood, upcycled furniture, upcycling, upcycling ideas

A table made from pallets.

The Artcycling, Diy, Upcycling, Recycling, Collage, upcycled furniture, upcycling ideas

A beautifully upcycled dressing table.

Some more great examples there of woodworking projects made into upcycled furniture. Also, if you are a beginner, you don’t have to try and build anything from scratch, unless you want to. Upcycled furniture made from wood is just as impressive when it has been sanded nicely and you have applied a nice lick of paint to it. As ever with upcycling, the possibilities are endless. And again, any issues during your woodworking projects head to the woodworking forum. Likewise, if you want to showcase your new work, post it on the projects forum.

Upcycled Furniture – Metalworking

Many examples of upcycled furniture contain aspects of metalwork. Metal is considered more difficult to work with than wood. However, the design of metal furniture will definitely give your project the look you desire. Some people have created fantastic metalwork projects with a steam punk design made from easier metal pieces to work with such as small screws, nuts and bolts. Although, it is difficult to work with metal without the correct tools, knowledge and experience the benefits of a strong, durable project will be worth the effort. Here’s some examples of upcycled metalwork:

upcycling ideas, upcycled cans, shelf, shelves

Metal garden plant pot shelves.

Metalworking is definitely a more difficult task to get what you want from your project. When doing any metalworking such as welding, make sure you have all the required safety equipment and have been fully trained. Other tasks such as filing or cutting small pieces of metal are definitely easier to work with. A nice particular combination of woodworking and metalworking used by upcyclers are chairs or tables with metal legs and wooden covers. These designs show the durability of the metal legs but also the workability of design in the wood and to keep the overall weight of the furniture down. Any questions please head over to our forum on metalworking.

Upcycled Furniture – Upholstery

Upcycled furniture using upholstery can make upcycling projects start to really come into their own. Selecting different fabrics to suit your stylish newly built furniture will make your design flourish. You can use many different colours and styles to create that desired look whether you want bold and bright or cute and flowery it’s entirely up to you. Upholstery is as simple as freshening or repairing an old chair cushion or you can upholster on any of your personally built projects. Have a look at some upcycled furniture upholstery styles we’ve found:

Chair, Baroque, Furniture, Upholstered Furniture, upcycled chair

Upholstered chair.

Sofa, Colored, Upholstery, Convenient, Sit, Couch

An abstract piece of upholstery on this sofa.

With the right kind of fabric for the job you can make some amazing creations to finish off your upcycled furniture project. If you want to upholster but don’t want to go and buy fabric you can use old curtains or other fabrics you may have around the house. If you can’t find any then there are sites which you get remnants of fabric for just the price of postage, this helps the environment as you will be using off cuts therefore reducing waste.

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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