In practical terms, upcycling means making something new out of something old, while adding value. In other words, we transform a piece that we don't particularly use, giving it a new style or function. We give it a second life.
It could be taking old clothes and transforming them into more fashionable pieces. Or taking pallets to make a bar for the terrace of your home. But upcycling can also be found in decorating, art, etc. Upcycling is all about making something new out of something old, with a unique, aesthetic edge.
In France, upcycling is becoming more and more fashionable, and brands and individuals alike are increasingly getting involved, thus participating in a circular fashion. In other words, taking what exists and turning it into something new. In this way, upcycling is part of a process of awareness-raising about the way we consume, in particular to fight against fast fashionThe textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world.
The difference between recycling and upcycling is that in recycling, material is "destroyed" in order to rebuild something. Here, the principle is rather to start with an object and revalue it, without spending the energy to reproduce it, as is the case with recycling.
Where does upcycling come from?
Upcycling first appeared in Germany in the 90s. In fact, Reiner Pilz, an engineer turned interior designer, was the first to coin the term, as he felt that people thought of recycling or destruction, without ever thinking of the upcycling option, which offers so many possibilities. For him, recycling destroys while lowering the value and quality of objects, while upcycling allows us not to destroy but to add value and quality to the product.
The term was then taken up by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book.
What's more, developing countries have also played a major role in this concept through recycling, notably due to a lack of resources. They are therefore the real forerunners of upcycling.
Today, as we explained earlier, upcycling is on the rise in developed countries, thanks in particular to the growing interest in ecological issues and the need to take action by offering an alternative, or rather a complement, to recycling.
What's at stake?
Above all, upcycling is more environmentally friendly because it avoids consuming energy and/or water to produce or re-produce. As a result, the production of new products is slowed down, as are their environmental impacts (use of pesticides, excessive water consumption, chemical treatments, pollution linked to transport...).
It's also less costly because we start with a material that has already been created and doesn't require any new energy expenditure to be recycled. What's more, for private individuals, giving new life to an object is often less expensive than buying a new one.
What's more, there's something rewarding and creative about upcycling materials to make something unique out of them. So upcycling is accessible to everyone, all the time.
How do you put it into practice?
Upcycling can also be implemented by individuals, thanks to their imagination and the many articles and videos that have been published recently. In some cities, there are even group courses to learn how to implement this practice.
Upcycling can also be used in fashion, by salvaging old clothes/clothes/linens - that you have at home, or by going to flea markets, garage sales, thrift shops, etc. - and transforming them into other garments, clutches, cushions, accessories, etc.
But upcycling can be done in many other areas too. All you need is one or more objects and your imagination!