The world of slow fashion contains a lot of different terms that when it comes down to it pretty much seems to have the same meaning. The difference between upcycling and recycling is a great example of that.
It can be difficult to differentiate and navigate between all the different terms in slow fashion, especially if you are new to the sustainable fashion field. So today we are getting to the bottom of the difference between two highly used terms in slow fashion: upcycling and recycling.
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These two terms can almost seem identical in meaning at first glance. But they actually differ quite a lot. So today we are going to find out the real difference between upcycling and recycling.
But before we do that, let’s find out what each of the terms means and how they work in practice.
What does upcycle mean?
In short, upcycling is the process of turning an old product into a “new” product by giving it new life. Well, it kind of sounds like there is no difference between upcycling and recycling then? There is, but let’s get back to that later.
If are looking at upcycling in a fashion-related manner, it can be seen as a way of turning something old, damaged, or something that may look useless into something stylish. Upcycling is pretty much all about reusing materials in a new and creative way.
What does recycle mean?
Recycling is a more common term than upcycling, so maybe you already know what it means, or have an idea of what it means. But let’s just hear it one more time, so that we are all on the same page.
Recycling refers to the process of reusing something again for a different purpose. Hold on, that sounds a lot like upcycling though doesn’t it? Yes, but there is a difference. There is, however, a lot of different understandings of what recycling means.
Even scholars are having a hard time agreeing on what exactly this term covers and doesn’t cover. But for now, let’s stick to the understanding of recycling as a material you process into something different.
Maybe you are already starting to see the difference between upcycling and recycling? If not, don’t worry, we are getting to that part next.
What is the difference between upcycling and recycling
The difference between upcycling and recycling lies in the production process. when something is recycled it goes through an industrial process, where it is turned into another material and used to produce a new item.
Upcycling on the other hand does not include an industrial process. You can upcycle something in your own home. In upcycling, an item or material is reused in a creative and new way. This could be an old curtain you turn into a dress.
So the difference between upcycling and recycling does not lie in the fact that a material or item is reused for a new purpose. The difference between upcycling and recycling is the whole process of how the material is turned into a new item.
How do upcycling and recycling help the environment?
Now that we have settled on the difference between upcycling and recycling let’s dive into why it is good for the environment.
It isn’t particularly difficult to come up with reasons why upcycling and recycling are great for the environment. Actually is it pretty easy. Minimizing waste, letting to a cutdown on the use of natural, cleaning oceans and landfills, cutting down on carbon emission, protecting ecosystems and wildlife, saving energy are just some of the things that upcycling and recycling leads to.
So you can see why upcycling and recycle is something that actually makes a difference in the long run, when it comes to climate change and the environment.
Why is upcycling important?
There is no difference between upcycling and recycling when it comes to be important. They are both important when it comes to waste, resources, pollution, and the environment.
Upcycling is especially important because it allows everyone, including you, to make new use of old items. It reduces waste since the old materials are given a new purpose.
More precisely upcycling is important beacuse it minimizes the number of materials that end up in landfills, cuts down on waste, and results in minimal use of natural resources. Upcycling also lets you be creative, lets you doing something good for the environment, and last but not least it is a way for you to save moeny.
Why is recycling important?
Recycling saves energy, saves ressources, reduces waste in landfills, is great for the environment, and the list goes on and on.
Recycling is important because it has so many benefits. Not only can it cut down on the resources used in the world, because we reuse, or recycle the old ones. It can also help protect nature from being filled with waste.
More sustainable brands are popping up using plastic waste found in the ocean or collected from landfills. This just shows how important recycling can be in the fashion industry.
What materials can be upcycled
A lot of materials can actually be upcycled. You might even be surprised just how many. Because when it comes to upcycling only your imagination is the limit. Here are a few examples of materials and products that are easy to upcycle.
- Home decor
- Metal and tin canes
You can pretty much upcycle all types of materials. If you are a sustainable fashionista, a great idea is to upcycle clothes. That way you can get new pieces for your wardrobe without actually being anything new. If that isn’t an easy and cheap way to create a conscious closet, I don’t know what is.
There are plenty of ways to upcycle clothes and textiles, but it is important to remember there is a big difference between upcycling and recycling when it comes to clothes. So keep that in mind when searing through Pinterest or another platform for clothing upcycling ideas.
What materials can be recycled
A lot of materials can be recycled today as is the case with upcycling. Here are some of the most common materials to recycle.
- Organic waste
There is one important difference between upcycling and recycling you should keep in mind. That is the fact that in a recycling process the material goes through a production face, where the material is compressed into something new.
These different materials will of course be recycled into different things. But you might be surprised to hear, that you actually can use plastic or organic waste to make clothes, because of the production phase the material goes through.
What is an example of upcycling
You can pretty much upcycle anything, but let’s use clothes and textiles as an example. However, I won’t just give you one example of upcycling. I will give you a list of ideas for ways you can upcycle textiles or clothes.
- Color your clothes with natural products such as avocado, onion peels, or spinach. This tip is especially great if you have a stain that won’t come off.
- Make a pair of jeans into shorts.
- Use textiles such as a tablecloth, old pieces of clothes, or a men’s shirt to sew new pieces of clothes.
- Make tie-and-dye
- Upcycle an old dress into a top or new hand-bag
There are literally tons of ways you can upcycle textiles and clothes. Here are places such as Pinterest your best friend for finding inspiration for new clothing upcycling projects.
Again, there is a difference between upcycling and recycling of clothes, so the examples you might come across are, of course, also different. So remember that when looking for examples and inspiration.
What is an example of recycling
When talking about recycling in the fashion industry, it is mostly done by the brands and not the consumer (here you should instead turn to upcycling. Recycling is becoming quite a popular thing in the garment industry though, and here are a few examples of recycling in fashion.
- Plastic recycled into clothes or accessories such as sunglasses
- Textiles recycled into new clothes
- Organic waste such as pineapple peels or apple peels into leather
- Wood can be turned into rayon, which is used in clothes.
Maybe you already know that plastic actually is used in the industry as a recycled material. But did you know that some brands are making clothes out of pineapple and apple peels? This is mostly used for making vegan leather. A lot of things are happening in recycling in the fashion industry, which is so exciting.
Learn more about sustainable fabrics
If all this talk about the difference between recycling and upcycling and all their benefits got you wondering about other terms such as deadstock fabric, or simply want to learn more about sustainable textiles, then check out all the textile guides here.