Not Recycling, Upcycling

It's more than just reusing grocery bags.

Upcycle: the process of converting trash into new materials or products of better quality or a higher value.

In a time where we are encouraged to recycle, compost, and make superhuman efforts to reduce waste, the concept of making something nice out of what would otherwise be garbage is certainly not foreign. 

But upcycling is more than just reusing plastic grocery bags to pick up dog poop or dusting with your husband’s old undershirts. It’s creating something of real value out of literal junk.

One of the most prolific upcyclers is Terracycle, an organization based in Trenton, N.J., with more than 20,000 volunteers. Participants “choose a waste stream,” collecting packaging from specific products – many of which were previously hard or impossible to recycle - and sending it in to Terracycle, which converts the waste into a wide variety of products and materials which are then sold at major retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods.

In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, Terracycle also donates to charity for each unit of waste collected. Since it was founded in 2001, Terracycle has collected more than 2 billion units of waste, and donated more than $4 million to charity. 

There are lots of other ways to upcycle around the house. Check out some of these cool ideas!

Newspaper basket – Made out of newspaper for newspapers! Fold newspaper copy into strips, then weave them together for a sturdy, attractive storage basket. Work in some colorful ribbon to tie it in with your home’s décor.

Upcycled t-shirt bibs – With a little bit of sewing know-how, you can finally repurpose that pile of beloved t-shirts you no longer, wear but can’t bear to part with. How cute will your baby look with your husband’s Greek letters emblazoned across her drooly chest? 

Cardboard packaging = thin chipboard – If you’re a scrapbooker, cardmaker or other paper crafter, you’ll look at cereal boxes and pasta packaging in a whole new light. Have a die-cutting machine? Run the cardboard through with a tag die, then adhere a piece of scrap paper, cut in the same shape, to the printed side. 

Pallet upcycling – Pinterest has a plethora of pallet projects, to turn those beat-up industrial transporters into weathered wood wonders. Make an Adirondack chair, build furniture, create storage, grow plants and more, all with something that looks like firewood. 

Baby-food jar goodies – The average baby can eat through 8,000 jars of baby food! You can recycle the glass jars, but why not upcycle them? Make candle-holders, tiny planters, small-things storage, spice jars, shower gifts. All you have to do is remove the label, clean the jar, maybe paint or cover the lid, and you have a blank canvas to fill!


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