Trash or treasure? Upcycling becomes growing green trend

Wed Sep 30, 2009 9:24am EDT
 
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Rather than throwing that bag or hosepipe into the recycle bin, how about turning it into a belt or a shower curtain, joining a growing band of upcyclers?

Upcycling refers to reusing an object in a new way without degrading the material it is made from, as opposed to recycling which generally involves breaking down the original material and making it into something else, using more energy.

Supporters of the environmentally friendly practice of upcycling say people in developing countries have effectively been upcycling for years, using old packaging and clothing in new ways, although more out of need than for the environment.

But upcycling is now taking off in other countries, reflecting an increased interest in eco-friendly products, particularly ones that are priced at an affordable level and proving profitable for the manufacturers.

"If upcycling is going to become mainstream, then the corporate world needs to see that it can be profitable," said Albe Zakes, spokesman of U.S. company TerraCycle which specializes in finding new uses for discarded packaging.

A growing number of companies are focusing on upcycling although the trend is still in its infancy with industry-wide figures yet to be produced.

Upcycling is used on a range of products including jewelry, furniture and fashion items, such as making bracelets from old flip flops, lamps from blenders, and turning skateboards into furniture such as chairs and bookcases.

British company Elvis & Kresse Organization (E&KO) uses industrial waste to make new luxury products, turning fire hoses into bags, belts, wallets and cufflinks.   Continued...

 
<p>Couches made of rubbish containers are pictured in the workshop of the Gabarage, a design shop where customers can buy ecologically sustainable design peaces made of trash, in Vienna September 18, 2009. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger</p>