Upcycled vs Recycled

what to sell at a craft show

The upcycled vs recycled debate is a long and ongoing one. Staunch supporters of each feel one is more beneficial to the environment than the other. If you love debates and are at the moment, rubbing your hands in glee at an opportunity to contribute your own quota to this controversial topic, err….sorry to disappoint you. Today’s article doesn’t seek to further the cause of which is better than which. Rather, it’s for the simple and peace-loving folks who have been wondering exactly what the difference is between these two similar-sounding ecofriendly activities.

Yes, both upcycling and recycling are awesome concepts for bettering our environment and lives in general. They prevent the occurrence of pollution, reduce wastage and the need for landfills, save energy, encourage conservation, and minimize the effect of global warming by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. With similar benefits to the environment and humanity, the only difference between these two lie in their modus operandi and the end result of the process.

To upcycle means to take an item that has outlived its usefulness and convert it into something else entirely. At the risk of sounding too wordy, for an upcycled item, it’s pre-upcycling purpose is usually way different from its post-upcycled purpose. For example, I wrote an article on vertical  gardening where used plastic bottles could be upcycled into cool planters for tomatoes and other vegetables. From a drinking container to a comfy vessel for your tomatoes……now that’s upcycling.

Credit: Inhabitat (inhabitat.com)

Plastic water or soda bottles can also be upcycled into inverted planters or handy sprinklers for your garden. 

Mason jars, paper or plastic cups can be upcycled into cool stationary organizers. Deborah even shows you how to chalk paint a mason jar and add more style to a normally simple upcycled container.

If you’re interested in more serious DIY upcycling projects, we’ve got you covered. Check out these potential ladder-upcycling projects or convert that old ladder to a chic towel rack with this great how-to guide.

My personal favorite would be the various upcycling ideas one can implement with that old headboard you are very sentimental about. From towel racks, to kitchen cabinets or welcome signs, your soon-to-be-discarded headboard can become a very important piece in your life once again.

Upcycling at its peak! | Credit: iheartnaptime.net

Where upcycling tends to be radical and embrace new ideas, recycling is more staid and old-fashioned. However, its less-than-radical approach doesn’t make the recycling option any less important than upcycling. Infact, it is pretty cool for those who are quite attached to a household item that is way past its prime, and are not so inclined to change its original function or purpose. Instead of converting it to something else, you can breathe new life into that furniture piece with some touches of paint and a little bit of design and refinishing.

To be honest, no one does recycling like Deborah. Whether it be old desks or not-so-pretty chairs, she has the knack to turn that ugly duckling into a graceful swan.

desk refinish
Epic Desk Makeover – Before and After. Old Desk to Charming Beauty

With recycling, you don’t have to change the status quo? Deborah shows you how to keep that priceless vintage mirror with this how-to guide on refinishing. 

how to refinish a vintage mirror
How To Refinish A Vintage Mirror (without breaking it!)

Or revamp a worn-out picture frame into this cool earring rack:

photo frame earring rack
Earring rack upcycled from picture frame…done!

So, let me guess. You are probably thinking: “Wow! Both options are so cool. Which do you suggest I go for?'” Anyone, my dear. Anyone that suits your fancy is just fine.

Although, some items are better suited to upcycling than recycling, like the plastic bottles mentioned earlier, a vast majority can either be upcycled or recycled depending on your needs, tastes and overall preferences.

So, rather than join the bandwagon arguing about which is better, why don’t you try out both concepts? With these simple upcycling ideas for common household items or this weekend cart- recycling project, you would definitely have a lot of fun and the end result would be quite pleasant and rewarding, trust me!

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