Recycle . . . Upcycle . . . Repurpose . . . buzz words our mothers likely never uttered while chatting over coffee. Even today, the words are often used interchangeably because, like the rhumba and the samba, some of us simply don’t understand the difference! So let’s tackle them together. . .
Recycled Most of us are familiar with this one - it’s the term that’s probably been around the longest. We dispose of our plastic & glass bottles, aluminum cans and paper separately from our trash. The collection is taken to a special facility where it is sorted, cleaned, crushed and reformed into something else entirely. Example: Recycled metal cans can become bike or car parts.
Upcycled The “up” implies that the newly created item is of higher quality or value than before. While recycling involves the destruction of waste, upcycling takes waste and creates something new from it in its current state. Example: An old, stretched-out sweater can be sewn into a stylish, upscale pillow.
Repurposed This is, of course, my personal favorite. To repurpose is to alter something to make it more suited for a different purpose. As a jewelry artist, I collect old, often forgotten or outdated jewelry then rework it to give it a new purpose as updated, everyday-wearable art. Some of these treasures are dusty, broken, tucked away in a drawer - once loved but no longer worn. It gives me great joy to not only restore them to their original beauty, but also to place them within a piece so they are wearable today. Example: A vintage shoe clip, earring, or button can be transformed into an exquisite necklace.
So there you have it - recycled, upcycled, and repurposed defined. As you can see, they’re all similar but with quite distinct differences.