What is upcycling?

Qu'est-ce que l’upcycling ?

In concrete terms, upcycling means making something new out of something old, while adding value to it. That is to say that we transform a piece, which we do not use particularly, by making it evolve by its style or its function. We give it a second life.

It can be for example to take old clothes to transform them and to make more fashionable pieces. Or taking pallets to make a bar for the terrace of his house. But we can also find upcycling in the decoration, in the art, ... Upcycling, it is to make new with old, with a unique and aesthetic side that prevails.

In France, upcycling is becoming more and more fashionable, and brands, as well as private individuals, are getting more and more into it, thus participating in a circular fashion. That is, starting from what exists to make something new. Thus, upcycling enters a process of awareness on the ways of consuming, especially to fight against fast fashionThe textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world.

The difference between recycling and upcycling is that during recycling, we "destroy" the material to rebuild something. Here, the principle is rather to start from an object and to revalue it, without spending energy to reproduce, as it is the case for recycling.

Where does upcycling come from?

Upcycling was first introduced in Germany in the 1990s. Reiner Pilz, an engineer turned interior designer, was the first to mention the term because he felt that people thought of recycling or destruction, without ever thinking of the reuse option, which offers many possibilities. For him, recycling destroys while lowering the value and quality of objects, while upcycling does not destroy but adds value and quality to the product.

Then the term was taken up by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book in 2002.

In addition, developing countries have also greatly participated in this concept by recovery, especially for lack of means. They are therefore the real precursors of upcycling.

Today, as we explained earlier, upcycling is developing in developed countries, especially thanks to the growing interest in ecological problems and the need to act by offering an alternative, or rather a complement, to recycling.

What are the stakes?

Upcycling is above all more respectful of the environment because it does not consume energy and/or water to produce or re-produce. Thus, the production of new products is slowed down, as well as their environmental impacts (use of pesticides, excessive water consumption, chemical treatments, pollution linked to transport...)

It is also less expensive because we start from a material It is also less expensive because we start from a material already created before and which does not require a new expenditure in energy to be valorized. Moreover, for the private individuals, giving life to an object is often less expensive than buying a new one.

In addition, there is a rewarding and creative side to upcycling materials to make something unique that comes out of our imagination. So upcycling is accessible to everyone, all the time.

How do you put it into practice?

Upcycling can be implemented by individuals, through their imagination, but also through the many articles and videos that have been published lately. In some cities, there are even group courses to learn how to implement this practice.

Upcycling can be used in fashion, by recovering old clothes/clothes/linen - that we have at home, or by doing flea markets, yard sales, thrift stores, ... - to transform them into other clothing, pouch, cushions, accessories, ...

But upcycling can also be done in many other areas. All you need is one or more objects and your imagination!


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