What is Upcycling?
Upcycling and Recycling are often seen as synonymous terms under the umbrella of sustainability. However, though similar in many ways, each implies its own uniquely important contribution to the whole. It’s important to understand this distinction because as you will see shortly, some products can be upcycled, but unfortunately cannot be recycled and visa versa.
Upcycling often implies a process of repurposing existing materials into something that is characteristically and functionally different than what it began as. Often the motivation behind upcycling is to make a material's second life more valuable than its first. Upcycling is, for example, turning the vinyl from billboards into colorful messenger bags, or turning discarded inner tubes into waterproof bike bags. As you can see, the primary emphasis is to utilize existing materials to create something new and unique. Why waste the limited resources we have at our disposal, when we can ultimately render many existing products into new and exciting usable forms?
An important distinction of upcycling is that a considerable amount of care is taken while handling and processing the material. The purpose being, to reuse the existing material without degrading the quality or composition for its next use. At Ecologic Designs we strive to not only give discarded materials a second chance at life, but we think they should look even better than they did during their first. All repurposed materials that arrive at our warehouse go through an extensive cleaning process, incorporating low energy machines and biodegradable soaps.
If you're interested in learning more about upcycling, including useful visual descriptions, we highly recommend you check out Intercon’s article, "Recycling vs. Upcycling: What is the Difference?".
Recycling is also based on the practice of targeting a product or material for reuse. However, one distinguishing factor is that, for example, to recycle old plastic bottles in order to create new ones, the material must be altered (melted down) and reformed. Oftentimes a certain amount of material degradation takes place when going through this process. As a result, over time material that was once new becomes less capable on its own of being 100% reusable and therefore requires the addition of some newly produced material. This is not always the case. Aluminum cans are an excellent example of a product that has very low material degradation. Point being, with recycling there is an associated expiration of the material in use. The process of recycling merely stretches that date over a prolonged period. However, this doesn’t take away from how incredibly important recycling is. Many of the most widely used materials on earth, such as certain metals, petroleum, wood and plants based fibers can be recycled over and over again to drastically reduce the need to harvest new stock for production.
Why Upcycle and Recycle?
Upcycling and recycling materials keeps them out of the landfill, extending their life and reducing their environmental impact. It also reduces the need for virgin materials. In addition to the obvious benefits, we see the enactment of these methods as a big step in creating public awareness towards the environmental impact of large scale manufacturing. We believe people have it within themselves to make positive change, and may in fact need to pioneer these changes for the benefit of future generations. So, why Upcycle and Recycle? Because we can make a difference. Why not?
Contact us about upcycling and recycling the following list of materials:
- Vinyl banners
- Soft polyester flag or banners
- Bike inner tubes
- Nylon climbing ropes, nylon and poly cordage
- Neoprene wetsuits
- Burlap from coffee bean bags and potato sacks
- Decommissioned/take-back outdoor gear
- Grain bags from breweries
- Salt bags from aquariums
- Sleeping pads
- Yoga mats
- Construction site wraps
- Hemp fabric
- Custom materials– just ask!
Who Uses This Service
- Businesses that use, print, or distribute highway billboards, marketing banners, and convention/expo/festival signage
- Event venues such as convention centers, stadiums, concert halls, and museums
- Universities and community organizations
- Event production companies
- Marketing and PR agencies and departments
- Recycling and waste management providers
- Municipal sustainability programs
- Manufacturers and distribution partners within the industries represented by the material resources we process
- Organizations that generate the materials we upcycle: bike shops, climbing gyms, summer camps, recreational centers, outfitters, and guide providers
Make sure your tubes are being responsibly recycled, so bring them in to one of the following: