We are all familiar with recycling, a term of growing importance in today’s waste-filled landscape. But a lot more companies today are upcycling. What does the word mean and why is it so crucial in our modern-day world?
What is upcycling?
According to Oxford Dictionaries, upcycling is when you reuse a product or its materials in such a way as to create a higher-value product. For example, our wallets, which are made out of the recycled rubber from the inner tubes of tyres, and our jewellery, which is made out of recycled electric wires, wood, skateboards – you name it. In each case, the upcycling process takes a material that would normally be discarded into the world’s landfills and makes something new and beautiful out of it. It is an act of finding beauty everywhere, exercising our creativity as a human race and loving our green planet. What’s not to love?
Why does upcycling matter?
There are several benefits to upcycling, all of which help us create a cleaner and greener planet. The most obvious is that the materials used in upcycled products will no longer go towards filling the world’s landfill sites – a necessary step. The US, for instance, may be rapidly reaching the peak capacity of their 2,000 active landfills. Creating new landfills is a problematic option, as landfills cause air, land and water pollution, and most communities are opposed to them.
Upcycling also helps to reduce the amount of CO2 in the air in another way. Because upcycling reuses products, it diminishes the need for raw materials. Extracting and manufacturing raw materials is a major source of CO2 emissions, which has a disastrous effect on our earth’s fragile atmosphere. According to NASA, CO2 levels in the air are higher than any time in the past 400,000 years. Unless we do something about it, this is only going to get worse.
What products can be upcycled?
The answer to this question is simple: anything really, as long as you have the creativity to transform it. For example. One of our designers makes beautiful earrings out of discarded electric wires, twisting them into delicate Celtic shapes for both a traditional and contemporary feel. Upcycling is all about seeing the beauty in the world around you and recognising that what we define as ‘trash’ actually has the potential to be far more.
Here are some of the materials that are upcycled to make our products:
Recycled oak barrels – Once used in Scottish distilleries, upcycled oak barrels can be used to make home accessories to add an air of sophistication to your décor.
Reclaimed wood – Offcuts from furniture factories and broken skateboards make a distinctive material for handmade jewellery.
Rubber tyres from motorcycles – When the worn tyre has reached the end of its life on the road, the reclaimed rubber makes an excellent belt.
Inner tubes of lorries and buses – These tubes are repurposed and handmade into bags, jewellery and other accessories.
How does upcycling work?
If you plan on upcycling at home, then it is just a matter of getting creative with what you have to hand. Upcycling on a company scale, however, is a process. When Paguro makes accessories out of inner rubber tubes, we must first source these tubes from where they have been discarded (within a 20km radius of the workshop). These tubes must then be transported to the workshop and thoroughly cleaned. Expert artisans sort through the tubes for uniformity and craft them by hand into the accessories you see on our website. And each stage of the process undergoes inspection, to make sure you get the highest quality products.
It is a long process but it is worth it. For over five years, the collective has recycled 3,660 tubes – that is, 12,810 kilograms of rubber diverted from landfill.
Join the revolution
Shopping responsibly has never been more urgent. In a world where products can come to define us, where we must dress for numerous environments and where everything is available instantly and globally, often at the cost of a carbon footprint, each responsible buy can make a difference. Look out for upcycled products. See whether the companies you are buying from make their products responsibly. Make a choice to reuse what we already have – for we have so much.