From fashion to art, design to interior decorating, upcycling is giving new lease on life to objects that have outlived their usefulness – and producing some surprising creations.
Works of art manufactured from old toys, designer dresses crafted from plastic bags, furniture constructed from crates found in the street – all of these are examples of upcycling: the appropriation and re-use of existing objects and waste by a variety of methods.
Recycling up, not down, by producing objects that are even more beautiful in their new incarnation than they were to start with.
Although the concept has been around a long time, the term was coined in the mid-1990s by Reiner Pilz, then adopted in 2002 by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The idea is simple: transforming a material or object that’s no longer being used into a more valuable or even luxurious product. Recycling up, not down, by producing objects that are even more beautiful in their new incarnation than they were to start with. The resulting upcycled works are unique, poetic pieces that are often met with astonishment.
These days, upcycling is everywhere: in day-to-day objects and accessories as well as in contemporary design, fashion and art. For some, it’s simply a trend, while for others it’s a philosophy that reflects a true commitment to the environment. But everyone agrees it’s a new way to create and produce.