What is the Difference Between Upcycling and Recycling

What is the Difference Between Upcycling and Recycling


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When I tell people I am an upcycler it’s usually followed by the question, “What is the Difference Between Upcycling and Recycling?”  For me they are both about taking something that would go to waste and putting it to use again, but the similarities end there.  It’s kind of like a watermelon and a tomato are both fruits, but they’re not the same thing.

What Is Recycling?

Recycling in the simpelest terms it to put something back to a previous stage of it’s life cycle and put back into circulation. Glass is turned back into glass.  Aluminum is change back into aluminum. Paper is turn back into paper.  Nothing about the item being recycled is fundamentally changed from it’s original state of being.

That’s why the symbol for recycling are arrows in a continuous loop.  Make sense?

Recycle Symbol

What Is Upcycling?

When you upcycle something you are taking something that can no longer be used for it’s original purpose and transforming it into something new.  Usually, the new purpose has very little to do with it’s original purpose.

For instance, these crutches that were transformed into a shelf. They clearly weren’t manufacture to be a shelf but they make a cute shelf anyway.

upcycled crutch shelf


What Can Be Upcycled?

What can’t be upcycled! Upcycling is only limited by your imagination.  For instance toilet paper rolls with a little creative imagination can be transformed into wall art like this peacock wall hanging.

upcycled paper towel rollsPretty cool right!

What is the purpose of Upcycling?

Upcycling is a way to keep things out of the land fill. It’s part of a movement to have more sustainable way of live.  From sustainable home furnishing to sustainable clothing. Upcycling is giving things that would ordinarily end up being thrown away because it’s broken or out of fashion and giving it a new lease on line. Look at the amazing upcycled outfits from Refashionista.net who I believe to be the queen of sustainable fashions.

Sustainable fashion from Refashionista


Upcycling is a fun and creative way to reuse things like my upcycled solar lights project.  Sometimes it can be a challenge to look at something that is broken and try to think of a new use for it, but in the end I’m thrilled with the results.

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