Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Upcycling vs Recycling

A while back I won a gift certificate for a shop on Etsy and used it to buy an upcycled bag. It was made from a gently used tank top. This got me thinking about recycling and upcycling. What's the difference? Is there one? Only way to find out is to ask!! So I contacted several shops to find out their opinions. Here are some quotes from some of the shops:

"Up cycling is taking something like for example a shirt that is a bit fad and adding some frills and bits to it to add some pizazz to it and make more fashionable. Or to take something old,unwanted and end of the line and turn it into something new and beautiful just by mixing and rearranging with the existing parts and pieces and sometimes by adding some new.
Recycling: Is more complicated, it involves chemicals proceduresEX: You can obtain fabric from plastic soda bottle and this means recycling them.
In short upcycled takes no transformation and recycling takes a transformation."

"Upcyle: is taking something new, that when you look at it you say to yourself "that big ugly brown button has to go" " I think I will embellish this sweater using my YoYos I have made" . WaLa! An upcycled sweater . Recycled is, taking something that has already been worn, used, or old etc. and reusing it for another purpose or melting something down to make new things. example: Milk Bottles etc."

"Up cycling is taking something that no longer has use or value(disposable) and forging or shaping it into something that has greater use or value. Recycling is processing used items such as paper, plastic, glass, textile, electronics and metal to prevent or reduce the consumption of raw materials which have greater or other uses. "

Here are some shops that Upcycle!

"I always understood "upcycling" as a different word for "re-purposing." So finding a new use fo an old object in a way that the first life is recongnizable in it' second life. Recycling, I think of as being more transforming a product into something completely different. I guess it can be boiled down to the difference of how much needs to be done to the original object before it can become a new object."

"It is to my understanding that the process of recycling uses the transfer of energy to change the physical state and components of the item to them recreate another item similar. Say for instance and aluminum can. Once melted down into a liquid it is then used to make other similar cans. With upcycling it is a bit different. There is no energy used to create a new item. You may take thick plastic and cut it down to paper size print words onto it and create a book. Or taking 20 oz soda tops and creating a mosaic of an influential person, both of which are not using energy to change the physical state of the item, and turning it into something more valuable."

Does everyone understand the difference now? I think I do, just don't ask me to put it down on paper. LOL Here are some shops that Recycle!

Come back tomorrow and meet two shops that either upcycle or recycle. (Please check in the comments - Sinclair has great definitions for each)

On a side note: Friday I am joining a Treasure Hunt on Etsy. There are lots of shops participating. We all have hidden a picture of a treasure chest in some of our listings in our shops. When you find the treasure chest you can purchase that item at a discount. Each shop will have the special in the shop announcement - so make sure you read each one - they will all be different.

I will have 4 treasure chests hidden in my shop and I'm offering 25% off each of those items (not including shipping). Mine will only start when I get home from my bus run & can "hide" the treasure chests and make the announcement in my shop.

Here is the link to the blog that will have all the shops listed and what they are offering as discounts (the list will be posted Friday morning): Etsy Treasure Hunt

Please check out my shop and all the other participating!! Happy hunting!


  1. so I take wool sweaters and cut them up and make them into cloth diaper covers that is upcycling right? The treasure hunt sounds fun! I love your blog!

  2. Great article! I was wondering the same thing :] Thank you!

  3. Great post...thanks for clearing up the confusion about Upcycle vs recycle...

  4. I've often wondered what the differences were! Thanks for clearing it up...

  5. very interesting! i have always wondered this too!

    ~Katie Eats Cake

  6. My two cents:
    Repurpose = take an old belt and embellish it and use it as a handle for a handbag.

    Upcycle = take an old t-shirt and cut it up and make a rug, handbag, or dryer sachet out of it.

    Recycle = take an old t-shirt and send it to a recycling factory that deconstructs the fabric back to basic textile pulp, then turns it back into cotton thread, then makes a new cotton something out of it.

  7. Thanks for clearing that up Audrey! I was wondering the same thing!

  8. And now I know! I was always so confused about "upcycling". I knew what recycling was...and now I know the difference :) Thanks Audrey!!

  9. Great blog Audrey!! Very informative. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!!!
    The treasure hunt sounds like fun!! Good luck with it!

  10. I had to laugh at this article as I thought of a "discussion" in a thread on etsy some time back :-)

    There is a difference. As long as an item can be reused, it's all good!

    Love your blog.

  11. I prefer upcycling because the items don't go through 'processing' which uses more energy..
    The treasure hunt is such a cool idea, I'll have to check it out!

  12. Thanks for the education! I first heard the word "upcycling" on Etsy and wondered what it meant.

  13. Great post Audrey!! You go-getter interviewer you:)
    Lots of info and I love the links!
    Very well done!

  14. Thanks so much for the clarification! I always wondered what the difference was.


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