What is upcycling?
Upcycling is the process of taking something discarded, and improving it to make something useful. It means that unwanted items or by products can be creatively reused, often with beautiful results. It’s big news for sustainability, giving new life to what would otherwise end up being waste.
What are the benefits of upcycling?
Upcycling existing items comes with a hefty number of environmental benefits. Salvaging something before it finds its way to landfill cuts down on the amount of waste, whilst reducing the demand for new items to be produced means less energy and waste from the manufacturer. Upcycling goes a long way towards preserving natural resources.
For the consumer, upcycling is an irresistible way to save money. Buying second hand or rescuing found items is often much cheaper than buying new. It’s a great way to end up with something completely unique, whatever your level of DIY skills.
Upcycling versus recycling
Recycling also reduces the strain on natural resources by re-processing materials already in use. Typically though, recycling can be energy intensive, needing power to transform waste materials into different products.
Upcycling can also demand energy input, such as using a power sander to prepare a surface for painting, but this tends to consume less. Upcycling usually adds value to an item by improving its usability and appearance.
What can be upcycled?
Pretty much anything can be upcycled with enough imagination and out of the box thinking! But, before getting stuck in to an upcycling project, always put safety first. Sanding or refinishing some items can release harmful dust or chemicals, whilst other products are just simply not fit for upcycling (like old aerosol cans, or food).
Upcycling tips for beginners
- Safety kit is your friend!
A dust mask, eye protection, and gloves are usually essential, depending on what you’re doing. Whilst upcycling is a great way to save money, don’t skimp on the safety protection.
- Preparation is key to a great finish.
This applies just as much to making sure you have all the tools for the upcycling job (something we talk about in our Tiling Tips for Top Tiling article), as it does to doing the project prep. Prime or sand before painting, or both! Wipe down to remove dust or grease that will ruin the finish.
- Be imaginative, even if things go wrong
It can take a bit of creative lateral thinking to see how something can be upcycled. Some projects might not go to plan, or might fail completely. Don’t be disheartened. If you’ve salvaged it once, it might be salvageable again!
Upcycling projects for beginners
The potential for upcycling is enormous. If you’re still a bit lost, some popular examples are shown below. And, if all else fails, Pinterest is an absolute powerhouse of ideas.
- Used tin cans into light shades or planters
- Old colanders into hanging baskets
- A knife block transforms into a pen or utensil holder with a bit of drilling