Thursday, 8 March 2012

Upcycling – The New Recycling

For years, the green and nature-friendly call has been to "reduce, re-use, recycle", but now there's a new term to add to the list. Upcyle. The concept is simple; instead of recycling something by breaking it down into something of lower quality, you re-invent something useless or disposable and turn it into something of a higher quality.

Upcycling is big business, with interior decorators, designers, and fashion moguls all getting in on the act. The goal for those companies is to make a process of "closed loop manufacturing". You take the useless product that would otherwise be headed for landfill and make it into something awesome, with as little waste as possible along the way.

Anyone Can Upcycle
Upcycling isn't just something that big name designers are doing. Many home based entrepreneurs are getting in on the act. A search for "upcycled" on Etsy will reveal a huge list of jewellery, ornaments, and even shabby-chic small furniture items that have all been made out of boring items that were given the upcycling treatment.

If you're re-modelling your home, you might want to think about upcycling. Those old wooden doors you're getting rid of might make good headboards for your bed - or, if they're multi-panel wooden doors, they could have their panels ripped out and turned in to a giant pop-art picture frame.
Even something as boring as skirting boards can be upcycled. If you're artistically inclined, chop your skirting boards up and paint them to make picture boards. Otherwise, cut, sand, and varnish them to make cutting boards. Some people even make skirting board sculptures. Your imagination is the only limit.

Look at Things From a Different Angle
The old adage about one man's trash being another man's treasure is as true today as it was when it was first said. If you're clearing out your house, stop and examine each item before you consign it to the bin. With practice you'd be amazed at the creative ideas you come up with.

Old glass light covers can be painted and turned into desk tidies. Staircase spindles can be spruced up and made into candlesticks, and a battered old suitcase could become a pet bed. The more artistically inclined you are, the wilder and more creative your upcycling projects can be.

Safety First
It's always nice to breathe new life into old stuff, but don't put your health, or the health of others, at risk. Converting wooden doors into picture frames is one thing, as long as you make sure they're well-made and hang properly, but messing with electronics is not a good idea unless you have some training.

It's best to stick to cosmetic items, or creative storage, for your first few projects. If you plan on attempting something more ambitious, or something that would involve electricity or fire, then make sure you know exactly what you're doing. Test the finished product carefully before you try to use it under normal circumstances. That might feel overly paranoid, but if you spot even one problem or design flaw, those tests could save your life.

Writteny by Amy Fowler on behalf of UK Oak Doors, suppliers of wooden doors and skirting boards that are just as useful when upcycled.

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