Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Since today is Earth Day I wanted to talk a little about my favorite way to "recycle". It is actually 'upcycling'. I read about upcycling somewhere a year or so ago and had no idea what it was (and that I had been doing it). So I googled it and Wikipedia gave me the definition...

Upcycling is a component of sustainability in which waste materials are used to provide new products. It is generally a reinvestment in the environment. "Upcycling is the practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value." This process allows for the reduction of waste and virgin material use.

The term upcycling was coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

Wikipedia says...

Recycling involves processing used materials into new products in order to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production.[1][2] Recycling is a key component of modern waste management and is the third component of the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" waste hierarchy.

Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles, and electronics. Although similar in effect, the composting or other reuse of biodegradable waste – such as food or garden waste – is not typically considered recycling.[2] Materials to be recycled are either brought to a collection center or picked up from the curbside, then sorted, cleaned, and reprocessed into new materials bound for manufacturing.

In a strict sense, recycling of a material would produce a fresh supply of the same material, for example used office paper to more office paper, or used foamed polystyrene to more polystyrene. However, this is often difficult or too expensive (compared with producing the same product from raw materials or other sources), so "recycling" of many products or materials involves their reuse in producing different materials (e.g., cardboard) instead. Another form of recycling is the salvage of certain materials from complex products, either due to their intrinsic value (e.g., lead from car batteries, or gold from computer components), or due to their hazardous nature (e.g., removal and reuse of mercury from various items).

Critics of recycling claim that it often wastes more resources than it saves, especially in cases where it is mandated by the government. Note here that municipal recycling may nevertheless still be worthwhile if the net cost is less than the landfill or other disposal costs for the same amount of material

Basically, when you take a used up item and 'craft' it (reuse it in a new way) into something new, that's upcycling. I abosolutely love to do this and so do my kids. They love to take old cereal boxes and make them into cars, houses, robots, etc.

Whatever you do, do it for the environment and have a great Earth Day!

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