I thought it would be great to share some insight into what Upcycling & Recycling are and how they differ as they've become buzz words but not always fully explained apart from being labeled as "good" which I believe they are. So below I've given a description of what Upcycling and Recycling are and a few key points on what makes them different. I hope you'll find it useful.
Upcycling is the activity of redesigning an item that would be considered as waste and transforming it into something else by using the existing material in creative ways to give it new life and usually added value.
Recycling is an industrial process that breaks down objects or waste materials into their original components so they can be used to make new ones. In most cases recycled materials must be mixed with new, raw material as the recycling process can weaken the material. Recycled materials are also often used to make the same product again i.e Plastic to make new plastic with the exception of aluminium and glass that are both 100% recyclable.
So, how are they different?
One of the key differences is that recycling requires objects and materials to be broken down to their original components to make something new and upcycling doesn’t. Upcycling requires the redesign or creation of something new from the materials current state, notice in the above video how the fabric from the shirt is not being broken down but rather redesigned and re-cut to work as something else and still visibly corduroy.
Secondly recycling is an industrial process that uses machinery, think of production line type machinery where items are sorted, taken apart, melted down etc whereas upcycling tends to be done by hand and involves creativity and often technical ability. This does mean that recycling is more practical and can be carried out on a large scale whereas upcycling involves a creative process carried out by human hands and can often involve skilled craftsmanship and done on a much smaller scale. However an important point is that upcycling can be done by anyone and can involve as little as redecorating something to make it usable again so its definitely more accessible.
In summary, although the processes differ upcycling and recycling work together to reduce waste and in effect the worlds carbon footprint by sending less waste to landfill and reusing resources. I believe there is the potential for a larger uptake of upcycling within the Fashion and Textiles industry and hope that will happen in the near future, as the current focus is more towards the recycling of fabrics. I would like to add that both processes are necessary particularly if we intend to move towards a circular fashion industry.
And on the note of recycling fabrics, are you interested to know how this works? If so let me know and I'd love to share the process with you.