In recent years, there has been an increase in awareness about the harmful effects of dumping waste on the environment. Dumping leads to pollution of landfills, toxic wastes in water bodies, erosion of soil, destruction of habitats and so much more.
One of the key factors leading to excessive dumping is the spread of consumerism and overconsumption. It is vital for us to promote sustainable purchasing habits and consume less. However, greedy corporations, in their quest to maximize profits, promote the exact opposite. They want us to consume more and more. They want us to dispose of older products to buy more from them. They need to protect the relevancy of their brand in this highly fast-moving capitalist world and hence dump their unsold inventory and further increase waste. Sounds pretty pessimistic, doesn't it? But don’t worry! Increasing awareness has also brought about several innovative solutions to this problem.
One of the ways by which we can reduce the waste we produce is by upcycling. Upcycling has become an extremely popular method of sustainability with #upcyle having 5.6 million posts on Instagram. So, what exactly does upcycling mean?
What Does Upcycling Mean?
Upcycling literally means reusing or recycling something in such a way that it adds value to it. The end product will have more value than the object used in upcycling. To understand this better, let’s directly compare it to downcycling.
In downcycling too an object is recycled. The materials in it are broken down to create a product of less value. For instance, plastic bottles are collected and broken down to make doormats of lesser value. Paper is downcycled to create newspapers that are of lower quality.
In this process of upcycling, materials aren't broken down. Rather, they are repurposed to create something better. Let’s say you have a torn dress. Instead of disposing of it, you use the cloth to make a tote bag! Now that is upcycling.
What Are The Benefits Of Upcycling?
Unfortunately, materials such as plastic can only be downcycled and broken down a few times. At the end of the day, their fate lies in landfills. To avoid this, upcycling is a perfect method to preserve an object’s value and longevity. Instead of giving away our plastic bottles for recycling (as they will invariably end up disposed of after being downcycled to make another product), we should turn them into flower pots! Or any other innovative product. The thing about upcycling is that you can let your imagination run wild and create new products you require.
Supports A Circular Economy
In a circular economy, goods are reused multiple times instead of being disposed of after using them once. This is a sustainable practice as it reduces the production of new goods and reduces waste.
Reduce Extraction Of Natural Resources
Production of new products requires the extraction of new resources, the creation of synthetic materials, and requires the use of resources such as water and electricity in creating these materials. All of this can be reduced if upcycled materials are used in the production process by companies. So, instead of creating new fabrics, clothing brands can collect donated clothes and create new products. Furniture companies can utilize pre-used wood and so on.
The process of turning raw materials into finished goods leads to carbon emissions and utilizes an excess of natural resources such as water. Even the process of recycling (such as breaking down plastic bottles) leads to carbon emissions. Upcycling helps in minimizing manufacturing. By popularising upcycling methods, one can truly help the planet!
One of the biggest pitfalls of consumerism is the idea that one has to constantly keep spending and purchasing new items. However, there is a certain charm in living frugally and knowing that you are doing your utmost to reduce waste and protect the environment. Not only that, but you also save a lot of money by upcycling!
What Can We The Consumers Do?
Other than ensuring that we practice conscious consumerism and purchase from companies that themselves practice upcycling, we can also practice upcycling in our homes. So, what are some materials we can upcycle?
Materials We Can Upcycle
Cardboard boxes tend to accumulate in our houses as we purchase items online or in the form of shoe boxes or food and chocolate boxes. While we can send them to be recycled, we can do better by repurposing them and creating items we would otherwise spend money to buy. Several DIY tutorials exist online to create bookshelves, photo frames, gift boxes, and more from cardboard!
Milk, alcohol bottles, and those aesthetic jars we get from Keventers can make for some amazing materials to use in decorations and organizers. By inserting LED lights in glass jars, you can make some beautiful lamps. You can even use a glass cutter to create pendants and candle holders out of glass! If you’ve ever broken a glass window, before disposing of the fragmented pieces, think of all the jewelry you could probably make with them.
Old worn-out clothes make for the best art and craft projects! You can turn them into rags to clean the house or an apron or a mat pr pretty much anything you want to as long as you are dexterous on the sewing machine.
From making bags out of candy wrappers to geometric ornamental hangers out of plastic straws, you can let your imagination run wild with plastic items. Plastic still remains one of the biggest polluters and finding ways to reuse it can do wonders in saving the planet.