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What You Need to Know about the Upcycling of Household Items

Upcycling is the process of turning discarded objects or materials into items of better quality and higher value. These days, upcycling is a hot topic and a hot trend.

Why?

All Lit Up Fireball Liquor Bottle Lamp with Lamp Shade

“All Lit Up” Upcycled Fireball Liquor Bottle Lamp

Well, it is great fun to upcycle and it’s also very planet-friendly!

As human beings, we all consume so much over the course of our daily lives, even when we try to be as eco-conscious as possible. Upcycling helps us to make new things (or to acquire new things) without consuming a lot of brand-new raw materials. In fact, it is possible to make upcycled items which are one hundred percent upcycled. Ratios of new-to-upcycled materials will vary by item, but anything’s possible.

Typically, items of this type are a mixture of old and new and this is what makes them so interesting and special. For example, a vintage pair of jeans which are lying around the house, unworn, might be turned into a pair of stylish wrist cuffs which feature upcycled material and new thread, fasteners and embellishments.

Another fun example is turning old liquor bottles into charming liquor bottle lights and mood lamps! We do this at our website and we’re so proud of the results. Our customers love the look and functionality of their upcycled lamps, which are ideal for rec rooms, man caves, home bars and living rooms.

Lots of people upcycle by making liquor bottle lights and other types of bottle lights and bottle lamps!  We put on own spin on it by focusing on creating items of superb quality, which are affordable, coveted and collectible…

What Could You Upcycle?

We all have so much stuff in our homes – any household item has the potential to be upcycled! It’s all about visualizing an end result and then making a plan.

All over the World Wide Web, people share their upcycling experiments on photo-sharing websites, such as Instagram and Pinterest. When upcycling fans create, it’s safe to say that they love to show off their craft project results.

While many people choose to upcycle on their own, by undertaking one or more “crafty” projects, others prefer to invest in upcycled items which are quirky, unique and downright irresistible!

Either approach helps the environment…

Upcycling Helps the Planet

This trend has been hot for quite a while now. The term upcycling was invented back in 1994, by Reiner Pilz, who leads an automation technology firm in Germany. The venerable New York Times newspaper did a piece on the value and potential of upcycling in 2010.

Titled, “Upcycling Evolves from Recycling”, the article discussed a London firm which converted cast-off fabrics into new fashions and accessories. This type of environmentally-conscious design is all about using things over and over again, in order to “close the loop” of consumption.

Some people refer to this fusion of “trash” and fashion design as “trashion”. However it’s referred to, it’s definitely upcycling and results are sometimes artistic, astounding and singular.

Just as genius musicians, such as Beck Hansen and Kanye West, use musical samples and/or musical influences from other decades in order to add richness and dimension to their music, “upcyclers” bring pieces of the past into the present, in order to create items which are different from the norm. This is just one more reason why upcycling is such as powerful form of self-expression.

Even when upcycled items aren’t from past decades, the results of upcycling are typically very charming. Novelty is a feature of many upcycled items and who doesn’t love a little novelty now and then?

Upcycling really is a new art form and watching it evolve is very fulfilling.

Is Upcycling Right for You?

Now that you have the inside scoop on upcycling household items, you’ll be ready to decide if doing upcycling yourself or purchasing upcycled items is something that you’re interested in.

We really hope that you enjoyed reading this factual quick guide. Thanks for dropping by today!

Steve Guccione

The Bottle Upcycler

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What is the definition of upcycle (upcycling)?

upcycle

verb [intransitive/transitive]

to reuse an object or materials to create a product of higher value or
 quality than the original object or materials

upcycled

adjective

upcycling

noun [uncountable]

upcycler

noun [countable]

Earrings which in a former life opened a can of Coke, wooden shelves on which a young skateboarder used to ride, a vinyl clock which once rotated on a turntable and produced a tuneful noise … The connection between all these innovative products is the idea of taking something old and looking at it in a new way, deciding how its shape and form might suit another purpose. They are are all examples of a new take on reusability known as upcycling.

Patron Bottle Mood Therapy Bottle Light w/Controller
“an upcycled product is generally of higher value than the materials used to create it – metal ring pulls or can tops become jewelry, low-value coins become cuff-links, even consumed liquor bottles can become unique and mesmerizing pieces of art”

To upcycle something is to take a used object and adapt it in an innovative way to a new function. Unlike recycling, which usually involves breaking down the material an object is made from, before it is made into something else (thereby using more energy), upcycling involves using something in a new way without doing anything to reprocess the material it’s made from. As well as being more energy efficient, another major benefit of upcycling is that it makes it possible to reuse items made of materials which couldn’t be dealt with by conventional recycling methods. When something is upcycled, nothing, or very little, is discarded, with every component part or material having a potential use.

An upcycled product is generally of higher value than the materials or objects used to create it – hence examples like metal ring pulls or can tops becoming jewelry items such as brooches or earrings, low-value coins becoming cuff-links, and so on. If you’d like to see some other examples of upcycled products, check out the website of upcycling enterprise TerraCycle, which takes waste items like sweet wrappers, drinks cartons and cosmetics tubes, and turns them into bags, photo frames, kites, and much more.

Background – upcycle

There is some evidence for use of the word upcycle as far back as 1994, but the term was first brought into the spotlight by US architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart in a 2002 book entitled Cradle to Cradle:  Remaking the Way We Make Things. In the book, McDonogh and Braungart use upcycle to describe the process of taking an object which is essentially a piece of waste and moving it ‘up’ the consumer goods chain (hence the word’s use of up in place of re-). Upcycling stands in contrast to what is sometimes referred to as downcycling – the process of converting waste materials or unwanted products into new materials or products of lesser quality.

Captain Morgan Multi-Colored Mood Therapy Bottle Light
Captain Morgan Multi-Colored Mood Therapy Bottle Light

Upcycled Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Mood Therapy Bottle Light with Multi-Colored LED’s

Upcycle follows the pattern of verb recycle and has related forms upcycled, upcycling and upcycler. Though the term upcycle has yet to enter a

mainstream dictionary, the concept is becoming increasingly established, and a popular offshoot is what is now sometimes described as trashion, art and fashion items made from used or discarded objects (a blend of trash and fashion).

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words