There is absolutely nothing new about upcycling. It is a process that has been used on household furniture for hundreds of years. It has only been in the modern day that this trend has gone out of fashion with the advent of the throw away culture.
Here in Winkleigh however, there is quite definitely a trend to hoard furniture in barns, lofts and outbuildings “just in case” followed by the mantra “it may come in useful sometime”.
Last month I was approached by Fiona from Fiona’s Farm Shop (who probably makes the best breakfast in Winkleigh) regarding a 1960’s Three Piece Suite she had hoarded in her garden room come storage shed. It had been there for over 20 years and had become a habitat for many beetles, moths and other small lifeforms. However, in Fiona’s opinion it was “Far too good to put on the bonfire!”
Fiona was right, this iconic shaped suite was a perfect upcycling project. It has taken a month to turn back the sands of time. It was stripped back to its wooden frame and completely reupholstered, keeping only the vinyl on the arms. A lot of work but we think the result was worth the effort. May it now go on for another 60 years.
Before we start I would like to say that recycling is essential to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Most of us now take part in the recycling process by separating waste that can be recycled and putting that waste in the various bins for collection by the council on bin day. Many of us will also take larger items to recycling centres located throughout the region. It matters little if we do this because we are forced to or because we understand the need to separate recyclable waste and want to. The important thing is that most of us now do it.
The recycling process requires so much more than separation. When stuff is recycled it goes down the supply chain where it is returned to its raw state before it can be used again. Paper is shredded and turned into pulp, plastic is shredded and melted into pellets, glass is smashed and melted to be recast. It is an expensive, energy rich, process.
Upcycling, however, is a creative process where waste is looked at as a resource to create something new. Materials and products go up the supply chain in a clever new way, giving them a second life and/or function. Think of a pallet coffee table. Upcycling transforms the pallet into a lovely new piece of furniture. Think of those old glass jars that could be made into bespoke garden lamps. Think of that tired old chair, chest or table … it’s amazing how a lick of paint will completely transform it into something new.
Perhaps if we called upcycling NEW-Cycling it would be easier to understand, because that what upcycling does. It makes the old new again.
Upcycling will completely change the appearance or character of the old and undesirable and turn it into something new and fabulous.
None of us would consider an item made from 100% recycled materials as being old or second-hand, because it has undergone a process to make it perform equally against those made of virgin materials. Nor should we think of upcycled products in that way. When you buy an upcycled product you should not think you are buying a second-hand item. The upcycled product will perform equally, and sometimes better, against the new or the recycled item.
Use creative thinking when you no longer want an item. Before sending it for recycling consider if it could be transformed into something else. Can you upcycle it, or could someone else do it for you? If it was made new again would you want to keep it?