Saturday, April 18

The Definition of Recycling

Recycling has come of age. It's become cool. It's also become a term that is used for far more than what it really means. Below I've defined "recycling" and two other similar terms. All these methods reduce the waste sent to landfills, which we all know is a good thing.

Recycling
In recycling the item being recycled is returned to a form which can then be processed by manufacturers into something new. It does have a bit of a carbon footprint from being transported to the recycling center, the manufacturer, the retailer and ultimately back to the consumer. Recycling uses energy and does create some pollution in the process, but generally uses less energy and produces less pollution than the raw materials would. It also reduces the need for mining those raw materials, which means fewer trees cut down, less strip mining, etc.

Reusing
Reusing an item is better than recycling because it avoids all the reprocessing and the energy use and the carbon footprint involved with recycling. Reusing an item means just that, using it over again. Like the roommate I had that rinsed out plastic bags and turn them inside out to dry so she could reuse them for her lunch the next day. Reusing an item does not alter that item's shape or look and it generally keeps the same purpose it originally had.

Upcycling
Upcycling is a new term and there still seems to be some talk about what it's true meaning is. To me upcycling is a step up from recycling (hence the name?). Upcycling is when you reuse an item, or a piece of an item to create something new. Upcycling doesn't take as much energy or produce as much of a carbon footprint as Recycling does. With upcycling you do not need to reprocess the item back into a raw form. Most of the items on this blog are upcycled. Upcycling is more fun than the previous two. With upcycling anyone can use their imagination, take some items from the recycling bin or trash and use them to create something new.

That said, I should probably have named this blog "Art of Upcycling". Oh well, more people search on the term "recycling" than "upcycling" anyway. Here's a challenge for you. Upcycle something and send me a photo with a list of the items used to make your new creation. I'll post it on this blog. If you want send the instructions for making that item and I'll post that too.

16 comments:

K. B. Keilbach said...

I love this...especially the part about upcycling! A while back I wrote about a company called Terracycle that has built a whole business around that concept. I didn't know the term "upcycling," though. It's always fun to learn something new! Thanks for your insights.

Avogana said...

Thanks for the heads up on Terracycle. I LOVE what they are doing!

Shane at Environmental Health-Wellness-Beauty,LLC said...

My husband upcycled a lamp when the shade broke w/ a piece of metal he had laying around. I wish I had a digital camera but I don't. It turned out pretty cool. He is always trying to fix broken things so we don't have to toss them.

Avogana said...

That's awesome Shane! You're husband sounds like a keeper.

Melissa Taylor said...

Love the blog! I recommend reading Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers and Dumpster Divers. It's so inspiring and enlightening . . . not to mention funny!

7th heaven said...

Very nice blog, jus' stumbled upon by chance on it today. Glad I did. Now a follower. Keep up the good work.

Le-Chat said...

Hi Avogana,
Here's a recent upcycled project of mine: made from handbag parts and a cut up t-shirt.
http://trashcollector.blogspot.com/2009/07/handbag.html
And thanks for the clarification of terms.

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matt at house clearance said...

I never knew that there were so many didn't kind of recycling. i maybe doing more upcycling in the future. thanks for the post

Costas Schuler said...

Then I managed to upcycle 10,000 pens by gluing them on my Mercedes Pens Art Car.

raymund from Konica said...

This is my first time to hear Upcycling. Another addition to my vocabulary.

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Lucy Bell said...

This is great. I love all the definitions you gave. I have even heard of people refer to recycling as "junk removal" which I don't really think is an appropriate term. Thanks for the education!

Jackson Leavitt said...

Does anyone know where there are any bottle return depots in Calgary? I have lots of bottles and rather than just throw them out, I'd rather recycle them.

Tom Clarke said...

Really like this blog! Didn't even know about the term 'upcycling'. I've been using skip hire in braintree to help me manage my recycling and waste management!