Upcycle or Recycle? What’s the Difference?

With the DIY craze really taking off again, there is a question in the minds of newcomers: What is upcyling and recycling, and is there an actual difference? At the core, they are very similar, as they both work to reduce the amount of resources used, either through conservation or reuse.

But while the principles behind each are the same, there is a difference in the process and how the two are done. You can utilize both to live greener life, and one can be used to save money. Making them both an important part of a better lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at each method, so you can begin applying them to your every day life.

What Is Recycling?


This is taking items that you might usually throw away – such as paper, plastic and glass – and taking them to a center that will reuse them in production. Tossing these in the trash promotes mass consumerism, making it necessary to use new resources for the same purpose in other products. It also overcrowds landfills and hurts the environment, as plastic and glass don’t naturally break down.

This can cause damage to the ecosystem and the plant and animal life living in it, while creating more pollution. Since dumps burn items to make more room, smoke is released into the air, which breaks down the ozone and creates smog.


When you recycle, you are not eliminating this process. However, you are reducing it and helping over time to make the world a cleaner place. All while canceling out the new items you will buy that require the same materials for packaging. This can be done even through the recycling of electronics and furniture, and so you should always look for places in your area that specialize in this kind of collection.

What Is Upcycling?


Unlike recycling, you are not breaking down items to go into an upgraded version. You are just reusing something for a different purpose, or giving it to someone else who might want it for the original purpose. For example, when you donate to a second hand shop (or buy from one), you are upcycling that item to it, as it is still used rather than being thrown away in favor of buying something to replace it.

This also helps keep consumerism down, and provides lower cost options to items that might have been very costly before. You can save a lot of money this way, help the less fortunate get what they need, or help to promote the creation of more durable products in an age where craftsmanship has been largely lost in the dominance of large corporations.

One other way to upcycle is through taking an old item and making it into a new one. Websites like Etsy have become well known for this process, as users have stores filled with things like clothes, furniture and art made entirely of old, broken down items no longer useful in their original form.


What You Can Do

Using both of these in your daily life is simple. Just begin sorting and recyling old trash, and donate or reuse old items to reduce what is bought new. It is cleaner, more eco-friendly, socially responsible and will save you money in a time where budgets can be tight.

See how easy it is?

Kate is a green blogger for Dobovo, the free eco-friendly tool to select great Kiev apartments on your next trip to Eastern Europe.

Image credits: 1, 2.

Written by Kate

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