What is Upcycling?

Upcycling works as a creative and environmentally friendly practice. Upcycling helps transform unwanted materials into something new and, because the process reuses materials, helps provide an eco-friendlier alternative to purchasing brand new items. Old furniture, textiles, plastics, clothing, and more get new life instead of getting thrown away!

What is Upcycling?

Upcycling acts as one part of the recycling process, along with recycling and downcycling. All three processes help limit the amount of waste in landfills through reuse. As their names suggest, these processes are similar, but offer their own differences!

  • Upcycling - many people and organizations refer to upcycling as the process of taking previously owned or unwanted products or materials and turning them into something new and of higher quality. Upcycling doesn’t break down the materials in the same way that recycling does. Instead, the materials get repurposed, refashioned, or refurbished into a product of higher quality.
  • Recycling - the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines recycling as “the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.” Recycled products get sorted, cleaned, then melted, broken down, or otherwise processed so the material can be reused.
  • Downcycling - when a material recycles into a material of lesser quality. During the recycling process, certain materials, like plastics, degrade with each recycle. Downcycling refers to when a material or product recycles into a less structurally sound version of the material. That doesn’t mean the product is bad though! Certain plastic bottles can downcycle into benches, car parts, and other useful items.

How does upcycling help the environment?

Upcycling uses existing materials, previously processed, manufactured, and shipped. Because of this, upcycling helps conserve resources and reduces the pollution produced when collecting raw materials and transporting products. Recycling, however, still requires transportation and processing while upcycling offers an energy and resource-saving alternative.

What can you upcycle?

As long as you can safely repurpose it, many items around your home can be creatively reused for a quality DIY projects, including:

  • Cardboard
  • Furniture
  • Wine bottles
  • Plastic bottles
  • Paper
  • Clothing
  • Textiles
  • Jewelry
  • Wood
  • and much more!

Craft furniture from old wood, sew together t-shirts to make a quilt or blanket, create decorations from old bottles, and much more. When it comes to upcycling, get as inventive as you want!


For more upcycling ideas, check out our other blog Switched to LED? Upcycle Your Old Bulbs with DIY Halloween Crafts! and find the tools you need to start upcycling here at HomElectrical.

Avery Dietzen
Avery Dietzen

Originally from Wisconsin, Avery earned her degree in English before making the trip down to the Atlanta, GA area. Writer by day, reader by night, she prides herself on having a creative outlook and tries to instill that in everything she writes. As a content writer for HomElectrical, she uses her skills to share tips and tricks about lighting, HVAC, and going green. If she’s not writing, she’s reading, painting, hanging out with her dog, or spending time with family and friends.

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