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Up-cycling Vs Recycling: What Is The Difference?

November 14 2021 – Diana Aldescu

Up-cycling Vs Recycling: What Is The Difference?
Up-cycling Vs Recycling: What Is The Difference?

Hello everyone and welcome to our blog of the week. Today we have a big topic to cover, up-cycling vs recycling. If you follow us on our socials (and if you don’t already, what are you doing?) you might find yourself wondering what exactly is up-cycling? So, grab a drink, sit back and let’s find out. 

The big question is always “What should I do with this now?”. You have probably worn your favourite sweater for many years, but sadly its lifetime came to an end. Now you find yourself confused, not knowing what’s the most sustainable way to go about it. Understanding the difference between up-cycling and recycling is a crucial step to a more sustainable life. But, don’t stress, we’ve got this covered for you. 

It is very important when purchasing an item to make it last for as long as possible. Although this may seem like a big shift, it for sure is vital to move away from unsustainable systems such as fast fashion.  This is when items get utilised for a short period and then end up in landfills.  

What is up-cycling?

What is up-cycling 

Let’s begin with up-cycling. Every item eventually comes to an end, but that doesn’t mean it has to be thrown away. Up-cycling, also referred to as ‘creative recycling’, is repurposing an item. This means looking for ways on how to reuse your items such as garments to make sure you get the most out of them. Think of up-cycling as the step before recycling. If your lovely sweatshirt is no longer cooperating, don’t throw it into a recycling bin just yet. Give it a second life, perhaps it can become a new cloth around the house? The only limits to up-cycling are your imagination and skills!

Benefits of up-cycling

Benefits of up-cycling

The most important benefit of up-cycling is that it reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Some waste materials might contain dangerous chemicals. These can cause soil degradation as well as pollution.

It also reduces the need for the production of new raw materials. This means no water and energy wasted! As well as less pollution and carbon emission produced by manufacturers. 

Another cool benefit of up-cycling is that it supports local businesses. Some businesses, like us, *cough, cough*, develop cool products made from waste. This waste can be in the form of leftover roll ends of fabrics from bigger companies. Small businesses contribute to having a more sustainable world. They turn waste into cool, new products. So, by purchasing from brands as such, you will play your part towards a better environment.

The most fun benefit of up-cycling is that it makes room for creativity and innovation. It takes a lot of creativity to come up with a product from waste, but who said you can’t do it? There are many up-cycling projects you can try alone or with friends. It saves you money and hey, a new hobby is not so bad. 

What can you up-cycle?

What can you up-cycle?

In all fairness, about anything. Up-cycling has become quite the trend at the moment on social media. People have taken on amazing projects combining items around the house they no longer use, and we are here for it. Check out some cool posts, #up-cycling, that will inspire you to start up-cycling goods on your own. 

The beauty of up-cycling is that there is no limit to what you can make. You want to use an old bottle of wine as a vase, why not? Your flower pot is starting to get a bit depressive? Don’t throw it away but give it a new, cool paint! Whatever you do, as long as you’re avoiding waste, you’re on the right path.

What is recycling?

What is recycling

Now, let’s talk about recycling. Firstly, recycling is an industrial process. It involves breaking down items to reuse their materials and create new products. Sometimes the same product can be made again when recycling, e.g. can for drinks. Recycled materials are usually melted or readjusted in some ways. 

Recyclable items are usually collected from homes, industrial properties and commercial properties. They get taken to a recycling centre where the production process begins. This depends on the item, whether it is 100% recyclable. Recycled materials usually get mixed with fresh materials to create new products. 

Benefits of recycling

Benefits of recycling

There are many benefits when recycling, but the main one is conserving natural resources. Some of our natural resources are in short supply, so recycling is very needed. Recycling paper and wood saves trees and endangered forests. Recycling plastic reduces the need for new plastic to be produced. This is great as we all know at this point how bad plastic can be on our planet. 

This might come as a surprise but we are running low on sand. Sand is needed to create glass, so recycling glass is exactly what we need. Finally, by recycling metal, we avoid the risks of damaging mining and extraction of new metal ores. 

Another big benefit of recycling is protecting ecosystems and wildlife. Recycling reduces the need to grow, harvest and extract new raw materials from our planet. So less damage is done to the natural world. Some of these actions are fewer forests cut down, fewer rivers diverted, fewer wild animals harmed and less pollution. How great is that?

Recycling helps to reduce the demand for raw materials. This is a great benefit for the planet, but also for people. The demand for producing new items has a huge effect on people. It puts people in extremely vulnerable situations. Those living next to forests or river systems have no choice but to leave their homes. Otherwise, they risk being exploited to all the dangers such as air pollution. Many communities have been evicted from their homes as a result of the constant search for cheap natural resources in their areas.

Another benefit of recycling that we love is saving energy. Making products from recycled materials involves less energy than making them from new raw materials. For example, making paper from recycled paper uses 40% less energy than making it from virgin wood.


What can/ can’t we recycle?

But, recycling is not always so easy. Two-thirds of UK households don’t know what bin some stuff should go in. We have summarised for you what categories can be recycled and the exact items.  

What type of paper can you recycle?


What paper can you recycle?

          -White paper
          -Non-shiny wrapping paper
          -Magazines & newspapers
          -Brown paper
          -Cardboard boxes
          -Of course, only dry paper!

Not all types of paper can be recycled.

          -You can’t recycle wet paper
          -Nappies and sanitary products
          -Cotton wool and make up pads
          -Sticky paper, e.g. post-it notes

What type of plastic can you recycle?


Let’s have a look and see what plastic you can start recycling today!

          -Drinks bottles
          -Shampoo, shower gel bottles
          -Cleaning products bottles
          -Pots, tubs, trays
          -Skincare products bottles

Same as paper, not all plastic can be recycled.

          -Bottles that contain chemicals
          -Sweet wrappers
          -Bubble wrap
          -Plastic toys
          -Toothpaste tubes

What type of metal can you recyle?


Ok, metal is a bit more straightforward. Some of the metal products you can recycle today are the following: 

          -Drinks cans
          -Food tins
          -Sweets tins
          -Aluminium foil
          -Aluminium trays

But, of course, not all metal can be recycled.

          -Crisps packets
          -Laminated foil

What type of glass can you recycle?


Not a lot of people might know, but yes, you can recycle glass. These are some of our everyday products that can be recycled: 

          -Non-food bottles, e.g. perfume

Some products made from glass that can’t be recycled are:

          -Drinking glasses
          -Microwave plates

How are up-cycling and recycling different?

How are up-cycling and recycling different?

Recycling is the destruction of waste so something new can be made. Up-cycling is keeping the original form, but giving it a different look and functionality. 

Recycling is a practical process whereas upcycling is encouraging creativity. Up-cycling can also involve a wide range of skills and techniques. Up-cycling is also usually seen as a more sustainable direction. The production process of making recycled products is not always the best. It involves the use of machinery and sometimes chemicals as they get blended with other materials. But up-cycling only needs your imagination and set of skills. 

Regardless of whether you up-cycle or recycle, they are both great actions that help the environment. Once a material can no longer serve its purpose, whichever direction you choose to take, it’ll be a good one.

How do up-cycling and recycling work together?

How do they work together?

Despite their differences, both up-cycle and recycle serve the same purpose. They teach consumers how their actions affect the planet. Both methods bring awareness to our consumer's choices and responsibilities around what we do with our items once we can’t use them any longer.

    1 comment

    • Anna Collins: February 20, 2023
      Author's avatar image

      We often receive a lot of cardboard boxes when ordering ingredients to use in our restaurant, so I want to get rid of them properly by opting for recycling instead. It’s good that you brought up how recycling helps reduce the demand for raw materials, which is quite beneficial for the planet since this means lowering the risks of forests and ecosystems being exploited to the dangers of pollution. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind while I go look for commercial recycling services to contact soon.

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