September 2020

The difference between recycling and upcycling

Recycling has been a big buzz word for years now, across workplaces, schools and even in our own homes. With the European Union and Irish government encouraging us all to take better control of how we dispose of our waste, doing so more effectively and recycling the correct items.

Upcycling is a newer term and is gradually being used more often. You are most likely to hear it referred to in conversations around home furniture or clothing, but most items can be upcycled.

Benefits of Recycling and Upcycling

Upcycling is simply a different type of recycling. The main aim of both is to reduce the volume of waste materials being sent to landfill or recovery sites each year. Making for a greener environment.

The benefits include:

  • Save on energy resources
  • Reduces air pollution, water pollution & greenhouse gas emissions
  • Preserving natural materials such as wood, water, and minerals
  • Protecting wildlife and eco systems with reduced harvesting of raw materials
  • Job creation

What is the difference?

Upcycling is where you turn your waste items that are broken or no longer needed and improve their quality or create a new use for them. It is seen as a more sustainable solution and gives older items a new lease of life, ensuring their lifespans are extended.

Recycling is the process of converting waste materials such as plastic, paper, glass, and metals such as aluminium and steel into new materials and objects. This is dependant on individuals ensuring they have recycled the correct items and that recycling bins are not contaminated.

Should you choose upcycling over recycling?

Recycling is a responsible method of managing discarded waste materials, but it does require energy to break down these recyclable materials. Once these items have been processed and broken down, they are then sold onto manufacturers to create new products.

Whereas with upcycling there is no need for excess energy consumption, and it can be done at home, with few or no additional tools or costs. It also allows you to create one of a kind items, and who does not like to have something unique.

So, upcycling does appear to have the upper hand over recycling.

Upcycling Ideas

  • Books
    • Desk Organiser – All you have to do is take a stack of book pages, cut two circles, insert toilet role tubes, and use the circular spaces you have created to hold pens.
    • A Planter – Yes people are using old books for succulent plants. You simply open the book, hallow out the centre of the book, line it and get planting. The perfect accessory for a coffee table.
    • Picture Frame – Books can stand up on their own so why not make a unique picture frame. You can paint over a book or decorate it however you like. Simply cut out a ‘frame’ in the front cover and attach the picture to the inside of it.
    • Decoration – Take you favourite book, insert a piece of rope and hang your books from the ceiling to make a unique space for your home
  • Cd’s & DVD’s
    • Coasters – Decorate old disks into funky coasters.
    • Mosaic Style – You can easily create a mosaic style frame for pictures or mirrors, or you can even do so to flowerpots, candle holders, bird baths and more
    • Wardrobe divider – Create clear dividers for your summer and winter clothes by labelling a disk and inserting on the rail in your wardrobe.
    • Box- Upcycle an old wooden box by gluing broken pieces of cd’s to it, adding some texture.
  • Video & Cassette Tapes
    • Boxes/ holders – Create unique boxes or holders to hang on your office wall or sitting room.
    • Coffee Table – Some people have used their old video tapes to make unique coffee tables with storage.
    • They can be glued to create bookends.
    • Knitting – You can use these old tapes as a wool feeder while knitting to prevent tangling.