Hitting for the (Up)Cycle

Okay, so we’re going to go out on a limb and assume that you have a basic understanding of what recycling is. But what about its cooler cousin, upcycling, and its ugly stepsister, downcycling?


Upcycling is a form of recycling in which the recycled materials are used to make something new. Instead of being broken down into less valuable materials, upcycled objects are repurposed as other, more practical things.

For instance: let’s say you have a two-liter bottle lying around. You could put it in the recycling bin, where it’ll go to a recycling plant and get broken down into its base materials and made into a lesser-quality product –– in other words, you could downcycle it. Or, you could upcycle it by converting your empty Coke bottle into a bird feeder, a planter, or even a toilet water saver contraption! 

Cool, huh?

We think so, too.

Now, about this “downcycling” stuff:

When things get downcycled, they’re broken down and made into new things –– for instance, plastics are made into other plastics. Sounds great, right? In the short run, it’s great: you’re keeping materials out of landfills. But in the long run, the resulting recycled materials are of lesser quality. Things can only be downcycled so many times before they can’t be downcycled any more, and they become useless and end up in –– you guessed it –– the dump.

Downcycling also requires more resources than upcycling –– think about all the energy it takes to break down those materials. Kind of defeats the purpose, huh?

Don’t get all down in the dumps (haha) yet, though. Here are some simple ways to become an upcycling pro:

Got an empty toilet paper or paper towel roll? Use it as a seed starter pot to grow your own garden! 

Empty bottles lying around? Make them into lanterns, vases, or even planters!

Not sure what to do with last weekend’s aftermath? Here are some ideas for upcylcing tin cans and plastic cups (wash ‘em out first, though…).

Ultimately, the goal of upcycling –– or any type of recycling, for that matter –– is to lessen our impact on the environment to preserve our limited natural resources. The more we reduce, reuse and (up)cycle, the better care we can take of the planet.

So give cast-off materials new life and help save the Earth in the process –– new, handmade things today for a more sustainable tomorrow.


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