Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials, components, and products into new products of equal or better quality, environmental value, or aesthetic value (Sung, 2017). Unlike recycling, which breaks down existing products to raw materials that are then used to create new products, upcycling involves using waste materials in their current state to make new products. The concept of upcycling aligns with the principles of the circular economy, which promotes the use of resources in a more sustainable and efficient way.
The term “upcycling” was first introduced by Reiner Pilz, German engineer, in 1994. Pilz proposed a novel approach to waste management in the context of architecture, where waste materials are transformed into new and valuable products, rather than being just recycled. He aimed to add value to discarded materials, which gave rise to the concept of “upcycling.” In 2002, the book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart brought further attention to the term and its purpose.
Upcycling has gained popularity in recent years as a way to reduce waste and environmental impact while also creating unique and innovative products and adding more value. Examples of upcycling include turning old clothing into new garments, repurposing used shipping containers into homes or offices, and transforming discarded materials into art installations.
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Sung, K. (2017, May 1). Sustainable production and consumption by upcycling. IRep. https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/31125/