A term coined by William McDonaugh and Michael Braungart. The process of converting an industrial nutrient (material) into something of similar or greater value, in its second life. Aluminum and glass, for example, can usually be upcycled into the same quality of aluminum and glass as the original products.


8 Responses to “Upcycle”
  1. Sandy says:

    If you take something that would normally be thrown into a recycle bin (glossy paged magazines) and use parts of it to make something truly beautiful, what is this called? I would call it upcycling because you are turning it into something even more valuable than it was originally.

  2. Nathan says:

    That would probably be still be called Recycling.

  3. Dan W says:

    Your question is fascinating, because it forces us to think about the comparative “value” or “quality” of semi-incomparable products. According to the definition listed above, a product is only “up”cycled, when it is “convert(ed)… into something of similar or greater value.”
    To evaluate if your magazine covers have truly been upcycled or not, we’ll have to debate whether magazine covers in their natural state have more or less value than magazine covers transformed into art.
    I would say that magazine covers, after being transformed into art, *do* have greater value than a virgin magazine cover. I think that if this application, they most certainly have been upcycled.

  4. Eric says:

    -in a reply to the one below me, – the problem with turning a phone book into art would inevitably become trash in the end. imagine every one turning their “phone book” into art, … would it still be art, or just junk that most people would toss, and end up into the soil. the problem is the materials used in the products that we have today. in order to upcycle, the materials of that phone book should not only be totaly bio-degradable, but also not contain any toxins that could seep into the soil.

  5. Jessica says:

    It is to my understanding that the process of recycling uses the transfer of energy to change the physical state and components of the item to them recreate another item similar. Say for instance and aluminum can. Once melted down into a liquid it is then used to make other similar cans. With upcycling it is a bit different. There is no energy used to create a new item. You may take thick plastic and cut it down to paper size print words onto it and create a book. Or taking 20 oz soda tops and creating a mosaic of an influential person, both of which are not using energy to change the physical state of the item, and turning it into something more valuable. Just some clarification to my knowledge.

  6. Would such works of art, etc. that do not undergo transformative material processing be considered “reuse” rather than “recycling”?

  7. Anonymous says:

    It is helpful to remember that one of the keys to upcycling is the awareness it sheds on us all. I would not try to take away from someone the joy of calling their work upcycled, if they think it is it probably is. Rather we should take a step back and realize all of these efforts are helping us move towards an awareness of the waste in our own lives, in all forms.


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