Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Definition of Recycling

Recycling has come of age. It's become cool. It's also become a term that is used for far more than what it really means. Below I've defined "recycling" and two other similar terms. All these methods reduce the waste sent to landfills, which we all know is a good thing.

In recycling the item being recycled is returned to a form which can then be processed by manufacturers into something new. It does have a bit of a carbon footprint from being transported to the recycling center, the manufacturer, the retailer and ultimately back to the consumer. Recycling uses energy and does create some pollution in the process, but generally uses less energy and produces less pollution than the raw materials would. It also reduces the need for mining those raw materials, which means fewer trees cut down, less strip mining, etc.

Reusing an item is better than recycling because it avoids all the reprocessing and the energy use and the carbon footprint involved with recycling. Reusing an item means just that, using it over again. Like the roommate I had that rinsed out plastic bags and turn them inside out to dry so she could reuse them for her lunch the next day. Reusing an item does not alter that item's shape or look and it generally keeps the same purpose it originally had.

Upcycling is a new term and there still seems to be some talk about what it's true meaning is. To me upcycling is a step up from recycling (hence the name?). Upcycling is when you reuse an item, or a piece of an item to create something new. Upcycling doesn't take as much energy or produce as much of a carbon footprint as Recycling does. With upcycling you do not need to reprocess the item back into a raw form. Most of the items on this blog are upcycled. Upcycling is more fun than the previous two. With upcycling anyone can use their imagination, take some items from the recycling bin or trash and use them to create something new.

That said, I should probably have named this blog "Art of Upcycling". Oh well, more people search on the term "recycling" than "upcycling" anyway. Here's a challenge for you. Upcycle something and send me a photo with a list of the items used to make your new creation. I'll post it on this blog. If you want send the instructions for making that item and I'll post that too.

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