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Definition

upcycling

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Upcycling is the practice of creating a useable product from waste or unwanted items or adapting an existing product in some way to add value. The purpose of upcycling is reducing waste and improving the efficiency of resource use.

Here are a few examples of upcycling:

  • Buildings constructed from shipping containers or materials salvaged from a dump.
  • A laptop case made from fused plastic shopping bags.
  • Sculpture created from junkyard finds.
  • Broken electronic toys adapted to become musical instruments (known as circuit-bending).
  • Jewelry fashioned from old computer parts.
  • A bench made from wooden pallets.
  • A blender integrated into a bicycle so that it works as the bike is pedaled.

Upcycling is a variation on recycling. Another variation, downcycling, is the practice of breaking down waste and unwanted items to their components or materials.

This was last updated in December 2012

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