Don’t trash, just upcycle


Move over recycling, upcycling is the new idea on the block! Usha Hariprasad tells us about this new trend, which is slowly acquiring its own followers. Get ready to turn your trash into attractive pieces of art and decor, with minimal energy consumed. It is also one of the most earth friendly initiatives in recent times.

Afew months back, I attended a flea market sale in Bangalore, and one of the stalls there caught my attention. Funky, decorative accessories grinned colourfully from every nook and corner of the stall. I was in a trance, for they were so beautiful. And when I realised they were made from disposed PET bottles and caps, I was hooked. The stall incidentally, was from ‘Silver Nut Tree’, Bangalore. And this was the first time I came across the term upcycled products, and saw their transformation- from ugly plastic, to decorative art ware.

Upcycling, the new mantra
Upcycling is giving a new purpose to trash. Creativity, imagination are the watchwords here as old items are repurposed and given new life. Old clothes, plastics, glass, tyres, ceramics, furniture, CDs – imagination is the limit when it comes to upcycling.

Upcycling is different from recycling. In upcycling you don’t change the composition of the product, it is not destroyed, just recrafted to form a better product, say a plastic bottle turned into a planter. The important factor for upcycling products is the design. This is not the case with recycling. Generally, the materials are broken down, the raw materials extracted to form new products, say recycling newspapers to get new paper, or recycling PET bottles to get raw materials for a range of products. Upcycling, when compared to recycling, is less energy intrinsic, generally uses less resources, and makes the product more desirable, thereby preventing its early dumping in landfills. Most of the things that we buy can be upcycled to our advantage. How? Here are few pointers.

Upcycling cans: Beverage cans are a frequent sight in landfills, rivers and rock beds. They are not only a sore sight, but also have a huge environmental impact. Consider the activity that goes behind making of every new can- mining, drilling, air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions etc. When a can goes to the landfill, it is dangerous to birds and animals. So what can you as an individual do? Upcycle whatever you can. Cans can be easily turned into vases, candle holders, night lamps, kitchen organisers, bird feeders etc. The metal can be reused to make coasters, magnets, book marks etc. With a bit of spray paint, tools like knife and drilling, you can do wonders with a soda can.

The same goes for plastic bottles. Considering that we are one of the top 20 countries dumping plastic waste in the oceans, it becomes all the more important. Plastic bottles have been used as vertical gardens, drip irrigators, napkin and ribbon holders, jewellery stand etc. Plastic bags have been used to make beads, flowers, crochets etc. Similarly, CDs too can be turned into sculptures, coasters, clocks or wall art.

Why leave furniture behind?: Old and damaged furniture can be easily repurposed to suit your home décor. The old shutter or door can be easily painted and made into a work of art. Consider using them as wall art or head boards above the beds to give them that extra height. Cabinets can be used as bathroom vanity, door handlers can become knobs, and damaged tables can be converted into side tables or corner tables. Sandpaper them, paint them, and any old furniture looks as good as new.

Go for sustainable brands: Fashion industry is one of the big polluters in the world today. The eco footprint is large right from production of raw materials to the end product; think chemicals used, the water discharged, the dyes, fabric waste, transportation etc., in its production cycle. Certain companies are doing their bit towards lessening this impact by creating sustainable brands. ‘Doodlage’, a brand that creates garments out of waste fabric, ‘House of Wandering Silk’, ‘KaSha’ by Karishma Shahani, ‘Pero’ by Aneeth Arora are generating waves through their upcycled products. Some use leftover fabric in their projects like ‘No Nasties’, that upcycles fabric waste in their ‘Cotton Sense Project’.

Purchase upcycled products or start your own: There are passionate individuals who have come up with products entirely upcycled. Paper, cardboards are very easily upcycled in to funky jewellery by ‘PaperMelon’, disposed PET bottles are turned into beautiful jewellery and home décor items by Silver Nut Tree, disposable pens are upcycled into furniture by ‘PenPals’ etc. Some of the stores ask for your old recyclables too like the Golisoda store that creates a range of products from old things. ‘ScrapShala’ is another store that reuses scrap items to get attractive home, party and office décor.

There are plenty of things that you could do to reduce waste going into landfills. You just need to have the heart and head to do it. There are no dearth of websites, apps and video tutorials on the net to give you a boost in this direction too. So check them out, get inspired and clean out your trash in the process.


Usha Hariprasadi

Usha Hariprasad is a freelancer who is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writing about travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. Currently, she works in a trekking organisation.