Education and Meanings

Upcycling: learn all about this concept of sustainable reuse

Excessive consumerism is the gateway to many environmental problems due to the ease with which we discard objects that are no longer useful.

It is a vicious cycle, as it is much easier to throw away what is no longer valuable and replace it with something new than trying to reuse what you already have. Going against this concept, a sustainable trend called upcycling has emerged in the current scenario , which aims at reusing and continuing the product’s life cycle.

WHAT IS UPCYCLING

Upcycling emerged with the aim of avoiding excess consumption and spending, but it ended up becoming a sustainable trend that has been gaining a lot of space in the economic scenario, especially in the fashion sector.

The meaning of upcycling is related to the creative reuse of by-products, waste, useless or unwanted products and consists of transforming what is no longer valuable into new materials. The objects that were created using the upcycling technique are of equal or superior quality to the original, since they usually receive a design touch that contributes to their appreciation.

This practice helps to reduce the amount of waste that would go to waste and to avoid wasting potentially useful materials. Consequently, this also reduces the need to consume new raw materials and helps to save energy, reduce air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In some cases, upcycling is the only solution for reusing certain materials, such as BOPP plastic.

In addition, upcycling is a great example of Circular Economy, and this makes the practice even more positive, from an ecological point of view, than recycling itself, since the proposal is that waste serves as an input for the production of new products.

See here everything about Environmental Sustainability .

BENEFITS OF UPCYCLING

The advantages of applying the practice of upcycling are:

  • Reduction in the amount of waste discarded in nature and in landfills;
  • Minimization of the use of energy resources;
  • Decrease in exploration and extraction of natural resources such as oil, wood, ore, etc;
  • Reduction in the use of raw materials in the manufacture of new products and valorization of existing materials;
  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

See here everything about Conscious Consumption .

UPCYCLING IN FASHION

The practice of upcycling has had a lot of influence on fashion and has been a complement to the concept of slow fashion, which proposes the slow production of pieces and promotes social and environmental awareness.

It is known that the textile industry has many pollution problems in fabric manufacturing and dyeing, generating large amounts of waste and using high volumes of water. In addition, the fashion industry usually offers terrible working conditions, especially in the mass production segment (fast fashion).

To give you an idea, 20 tones of scraps of fabric are generated every day in the factories of Brás and Bom Retiro, in the central region of São Paulo, and all this garbage is discarded and collected by the common collection service, and ends up in the landfills where they stay for years.

Brands and designers have already realized that producing and consuming fashions at today’s pace is impractical in the long run and the population has also realized this fact. According to a survey released by Unilever, around 33% of consumers prefer brands that have a positive impact on society and the environment.

Thus, the practice of upcycling in fashion has been an innovative way to transform this industry’s product into something with appeal and market positioning, as it is sustainable, profitable and creative.

One of the examples of upcycling is being carried out by the brand of stylist Agustina Comas, which focuses on the reuse of defective shirts. Through her creative process, she transforms shirts and skirts that have lost their value into new and stylish pieces. Another example is the Insecta Shoes brand, which reuses discarded fabrics or leftovers with minor defects to produce ecological and vegan shoes and accessories.

UPCYCLING IN THE MARKET

The contribution of upcycling is reaching different market segments and standing out as an excellent business opportunity. As mentioned before, companies that positively impact the community and the planet are gradually better viewed by customers.

The American company TerraCycle has saved more than 3 billion waste, which had no proper destination, from being sent to dumps around the world. The material collected was used to develop bags, umbrellas, notebooks and several other “green” products.

It’s not just in fashion that upcycling is gaining attention. The design, decoration, architecture, fine arts and many other areas are also making use of the concept.

German product design firm Lockengelöt is an example of a successful upcycling venture. Their flagship is turning oil drums into stylish cabinets or coffee tables, but they also produce wall lamps made from colorful vinyl records, jewelry made from recycled skateboards, and other products. Today, the company is a reference for local and sustainable production and has distribution on a European level.

Upcycling has also been growing in Brazil and there are already several initiatives based on this concept of reuse. One of them is the Rio de Janeiro brand InSana, which rescues waste that would go directly to the trash and transforms it into furniture and decorative items with a lot of personality. It is a vat of oil that becomes a table or an armchair; a supported rope to turn a light fixture; gears that are converted into work of art; it doesn’t matter, creativity is not lacking!

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Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

Robert Asprin

Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

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