Friday, 26 April 2013

What really is Upcycling?

According to Wikipedia, upcycling is 'the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value'. I probably agree with this. The photo shows a wee belt I've just made by wrapping toghether two scarves that were both becoming quite raggedy. Together though they make a nice wearable belt, with a bohemian, shabby chic look to it. Most of the crafts I make use scrap materials, which otherwise might have ended up in landfill or in the city recycling. (recycling of course is a good thing, but re-use is better!).

I find myself puzzled though by some so called upcycling products. I recently saw a tutorial to make a mirror frame from plastic spoons. The tutorial starts by saying 'buy several bags of plastic spoons'. There's nothing environmentally friendly about buying plastic spoons and by buying several bags for crafting purposes, you'd only be increasing the demand for more plastic spoons! Which isn't part of the real ethos of upcycling. Of course if the mirror frame is made from used plastic spoons it would really be upcycling, though even better not to use the plastic spoons in the first place.

I'm even more puzzled by art projects that claim to 'upcycle food' into art. In a world where people still go hungry, despite the best efforts of aid agencies and governments, the best and most appropriate use of food is for eating.

A great upcycling project I recently found out about is run by Lush Cosmetics. They collect the plastic lids from milk bottles, juice bottles and cartons (the tops that can't be recycled otherwise). They then make these tops into new containers for their cosmetics. You can find your nearest Lush shop here.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any examples of best (or worst) upcycled crafts?


12 comments:

Carver said...

I love what you did with your old scarves. I think the idea of buying plastic spoons and calling it up cycling is silly.

When I get take-out, some places automatically put in plastic ones which I save since I prefer to eat with my home utensils. I could use those plastic free ones that pile up for a project although what I should do is remember to tell take out places that I don't need the plastic ones.

I agree that food should be eaten. I don't get that one at all.

TexWisGirl said...

i like the belt. very cool.

i saw someone recently blog about collecting plastic tableware from a beach area where she was vacationing. she picked up the litter, stashed it in her suitcase, brought it home and made art with it. now that would be upcycling. :)

Crafty Green Poet said...

Carver - you're right about the plastic cutlery that comes with take outs!

TexWis - yes that's an excellent example of upcycling!

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

What I think, above all concerning plastic but not only, is that a campaign should be started to make producers diminish wrappings of all sorts, boxes, plastic boxes especially containing all sorts of food and not only food. It should be great to slowly go back to buy food using only a cloth bag of ours and finding as much as possible all that we need, as it was in the past, mainly unwrapped, in the open.
Some old relatives of mine remember how much less waste of used bags and how fewer discarded, opened boxes there were in the fifties and sixties. It seems things started changing dramatically in the seventies. One week ago after they brought me a new cooker I spent almost one hour getting rid of what contained and covered it!

speedyrabbit said...

interesting

Crafty Green Poet said...

Tommaso you're entirely right, and I think some comp;anies are moving in that direction, but not enough of them and too slowly.

Bill said...

A provocative and informative brief essay.

Ms Sparrow said...

I agree that simply finding different uses for new items doesn't make them recycled. I dislike using plastic dinnerware too.

Rabbits' Guy said...

I like it when discards into the recycle stream get made in to new products ...

Carol Steel said...

Hi,
You make good points about buying new stuff to craft and calling it upcycling or recycling. I've never understood this, perhaps because it doesn't make any sense and further adds to waste.

The belt is a great idea. I have some scaves I can do this with and am happy for the suggestion.

eileeninmd said...

This is a great post! The belt is pretty, I like it!

Jim Froggatt said...

I once chopped the bottoms off a pair of old plastic pop bottles, made a hole in the side of each one and made them into a pair of headphones - the big holes in the bottom pointing to the telly so I could hear it when everyone else in the room was talking and wouldn't shut up.