What is Upcycling?

Upcycling isn’t just the practice of transforming old materials into useable objects, it’s the process of breathing a new lease of life into well used and loved items to give them a new story and personality. All this while at the same time creating something that is useful, functional and beautiful.

This seemingly basic concept has sparked an exciting revolution in recent times, a revolution that anyone can join.

What are we doing?

Thrift is in. It’s no secret that everyone is looking to save money where they can, while at the same time taking control of their purse strings by getting creative and being sure never to settle for second best! What this has created is a thriving community of likeminded people creating beautiful products and inspiring the rest of us to innovate and create on a budget.

At Gumtree we exist to help you upgrade your life. And we like to make things easy, which is why we came up with Easy Buy, Easy Sell. Now we want to help you take advantage of the upcycling opportunities out there, which is why as part of National Recycling Week we’re campaigning for National Upcycling Day to be held on the 24th June and are teaming up with a group of the UKs hottest upcycling and lifestyle bloggers to create the Gumtree Guide to Upcycling. You can find more dining room chairs on Gumtree here

Recycling Vs Upcycling

Recycling is the process of taking waste, generally consumer materials – plastic, paper, metal or glass – breaking it down and turning it into a reusable product. Upcycling involves turning an unwanted product into a better quality product. The big idea is that items made from recycled materials can be even more desirable than the original products, which can only be a good thing for sustainable production with environmental consciousness.

The Modern History of Upcycling

The term ‘upcycle’ was first used in 1994 by Reiner Pilz. During an interview about the process of European waste systems (not very interesting), I call it down-cycling. They smash bricks, they smash everything. What we need is he said, “Recycling, Although not specifically talking about upcycling in its current form, I think we can all agree that Mr Pilz was certainly onto something!

The term really shot into the public eye in the 2002 book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. McDonough and Braungart encouraged the idea that we should do what we can to prolong a products life, something core to the purpose of upcycling.

What we’ve learnt from this is that although upcycling is a new term, it’s not really a new phenomenon. Upcycling has been present in one form or another throughout history, it was just never realised. Even today, in developing and war stricken countries, people upcycle items to preserve and maintain a level of normality, just like the Syrian carpenter creating toys for children stuck in a refugee camp.

Why Has Upcycling Become So Popular?

A slow economy has led to an increased awareness of environmental responsibility and from that given birth to the upcycling culture we see today. This collective innovative spirit and environmental consciousness has led to upcycling in nearly all areas of life. Homeowners who may be looking for ways to renovate on a budget or the university student strapped for cash; anyone can take on an upcycling project, save money and create beautiful, bespoke items while at the same time helping to save the planet.

What’s not to like about being safe in the knowledge that you’ve contributed positively to our planet and are also the owner of a unique, one of a kind product unlike any other?! It sounds pretty good to us!

The Benefits of Upcycling

The environmental benefits of upcycling are enormous. It doesn’t just help curb the shocking volume of discarded materials and waste finding its way into landfills each year, it also reduces the demand for the use of new or raw materials in production. A lower demand for these materials means a reduction in air pollution, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, helping us conserve our precious global resources. Not bad!

The benefits of upcycling for both the designer and the customer are equally as impressive. This innovative method of material sourcing and production has formed an entirely new and thriving industry. This shift back to handmade artisanal craftsmanship is a breath of fresh air (no pun intended) after years of mass production across all major consumer industries.

What Can I Upcycle?

You can upcycle just about anything. All it takes is an idea, a splash of creativity, and your old bottle crates can be a bookshelf in no time.

Our For Sale section is teaming with well-loved items looking for a new home, a new story and a new lease of life. Take for example the amazing piano below that has been made into a bar.

We bet there are few items in your home that with a dash of colour and a lick of paint could make you some £££’s. Why not challenge yourself and join us in our #UpcycleRevolution? Search ‘upcycle’ on Gumtree.com for inspiration or take a look at the hashtag and see what other people are creating!

Once you’ve had a go at upcycling yourself, tell us about it and use the hashtag in your post – we can’t wait to see where your imagination takes you.

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