Upcycling vs Recycling: Which is Better


Upcycling is trending at the moment and involves turning waste or otherwise unwanted products into something new with a purpose or function.  Its popularity has grown in recent years due to the fact that you are building with materials that would otherwise be considered waste and thrown away.

The practice of upcycling reduces the overall use of raw materials when building products.  This reduction of raw materials results in a reduction of energy usage, as well as several forms of pollution and helps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 

Upcycling does have several benefits over recycling as well.  Recycling as we all know is an energy-intensive process, and recycling materials such as paper and plastic will still use a great deal of energy and produce some greenhouse gases.  Upcycling drastically reduces the energy involved to transform these products.

Another factor is the quality aspect.  It is well known that during the process of recycling plastic for example, the end product is significantly weaker than the original plastic.  This is due to the fact that when it is originally formed, many different types of plastics are used, resulting in a hybrid.  When this hybrid plastic is broken down during the recycling process, the plastics suffer what is known as phase-separation, which causes structural weakness in the end product.

Upcycling, on the other hand, maintains the structural properties originally found in the plastic, as it is not being broken down, it can be reformed without affecting its strength. 

Popular vendor sites such as Etsy are an easy place to find upcycled products.  In fact, from 2010 to 2011, products on Etsy tagged with ‘upcycling’ rose 275%, and in the next year it rose a further 879%.  More and more people are looking to live their lives in a more eco-friendly fashion, and upcycling allow people to give old products a new lease of life.