Upcycling means creative re-use. It is a special recycling process that aims not only to reuse waste, but to treat waste products in new, higher-quality products. Upcycling stands out as a process for its sustainable innovation by using materials in its original form, saving resources and money, thus increasing the quality of the product. The goal of upcycling is to avoid wasting potentially useful materials by using existing ones. This reduces the consumption of new raw materials when creating new products. Reducing the use of new raw materials can lead to a reduction in energy use, air pollution, water pollution, and even greenhouse gases emissions.
Upcycling is the opposite of downcycling, which is the other half of recycling. Downcycling involves the conversion of materials and products into new materials of lower quality while recycling involves the conversion or extraction of useful materials from an original powder product by creating a different product or material from the beginning.
The first recorded use of the term upcycling was by Reiner Pilz in 1994. The concept was later incorporated by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in 2002 in their Cradle-to-Cradle book: Rebuilding the way we do things. McDonough and Braungart were pioneers in upcycling, claiming that we should all try to prolong the life of the products.
The tradition of re-use in art grew sporadically in the mid-20th century. An exemplary upcycling example is the Watts Tower (1921-1954) in Los Angeles, which is made of scrap, ceramic and broken glasses on a large scale and consists of 17 different sculptural constructions, the highest being reaches a height of more than 30 meters.
Another recent example is the Orchestra de Instrumentos Reciclados de Cateura in Paraguay, whose musical instruments are made of materials from the landfill site of Cateura.
Somehow that’s how convert art began, turning old inner tubes into used handbags and accessories, and -more- used electrical material into gorgeous jewelery and decorative items.