Have you ever heard of upcycling? One way or the other we’re sure you know what it’s about. And you’ve probably done it yourself too, especially if you follow our column dedicated to DIY projects.

What is upcycling?

Upcycling is the reuse of waste materials and objects that are no longer of use, to create new products, with the intention of enhancing them.

We are therefore talking about creative recycling ideas, but also much larger projects, such as the revaluation in the world of architecture and interior design. So it’s both the wooden wine bottle crates used as flower boxes, to containers redesigned as mini-houses.

You usually start from a non-descript object, using creativity and manual skills to add value to it. There are countless accounts and webpages on this subject: a world to discover click after click!

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What are the differences between upcycling and recycling?

To try and understand, let’s start from the first time this term was used: it was 1994 and in the architecture and antiques magazine Salvo, when the journalist Thornton Kay interviewed the engineer Reiner Pilz. The way we talk about upcycling today comes from the way it was first used by Pliz.

Recycling, I call it down-cycling. They smash bricks, they smash everything. What we need is up-cycling, where old products are given more value, not less.

The term recycle has the etymological meaning of “completing another cycle” (re+cycle). According to Pilz, recycling means starting another cycle (down-cycle), by destroying; what we need, however, is a new cycle (upcycle), in which old products increase their value.

In short, with recycling you destroy something to start something else from scratch, with upcycling you improve something already in existence and disused.

The advantages of upcycling? For some projects and products, it requires less energy (than recycling plants), reduces the cost of producing new items and curbs the ever-increasing consumerism of the age in which we live.