HOW IS UPCYCLING DIFFERENT FROM RECYCLING?
At the very beginning of Kinsu, when I just quit my job few years ago and began networking, telling whoever wanted to hear that I was going to launch a fashionable accessory line recycling denim from old jeans, people would lose interest the moment I would say “recycling.” It was as if the idea of recycling clothes somehow categorized me as a patchwork enviro-freak who only sells her wares over the Christmas holidays to make some extra money from her “pastime.” …. Which I kinda was when I think about it …and well in fact still is! but that is not the point;) Bottom line is I stopped using the word “recycling” since it no longer seemed inspirational.
I then started talking about “upcycling,” defining myself as a “denim upcycler” paying tribute to the most cherished fabric in the world. Finally, people were intrigued.
Although upcycling is a form of recycling and stands in the same family, there are nuances interesting to point out. I’ll happily clarify those because to elevate the discussion about sustainability we most understand nuances and describe what we do using the proper words:) Let me guide you through.
1. ARTISTIC INSPIRATION
Upcycling is a ‘high-end’ version of recycling that occurs via artistic inspiration. Upcycling is about reimagining, some might call it ”creative recycling”.
Recycling of a material, in the strictest sense, would produce a fresh supply of the same material. If it’s down grade the integrity of the material purist would then call it downcyling.
2. UPGRADED VALUE
Upcycling is all about removing the material from its original context and enabling a future use that upgrades its value.
Recycling is the process of turning waste and using them to form another product that is often of lesser quality. For example, this denim housing insolation.
3. HANDMADE PROCESS
Upcycling is a handmade process and the result of labor and craftmanship. Upcycled products are uniques, made in small series and exclusives.
Recycling implies standardise larger scale manufacturing production and an industrial process.
4. LOW CARBON FOOTPRINT
Recycling process requires a considerable amount of energy. Less than processing raw material that is a given but way more than upcycling. Also it is not rare that discarded goods are sent around the globe to recycled and sold back once the process done.
Upcycling process requires a very small amount of energy if we talk about electricity and fuel but will for sure require a big amount of human energy and passion:) Plus upcycling mainly take place locally where the discarded goods have been used.
Upcycled goods is labor intensive and take time to make. If it is execute with decent working wages and condition, the product will be expensive. One of a kind also has it’s cost.
Recycled goods although often more expensive then the one made with raw material will still be cheaper than the upcycled product as they are produce in larger scale production.
Upcycling is clever and cleverness surprises and fascinates people. I feel customers are slowly becoming feed up and tired of seeing same but slightly different products in same but slightly different stores. Uniqueness surprises people, make them smile, and bring them to engage with you. Countless customers were astonished when they learned that my products are made from preloved jeans. I continue to receive messages from customers that want to drop by my studio because they have collected bags of old jeans for me. People feel inspired, so they want to be involved in the process. With my customers suddenly starting to become my raw material suppliers, a fascinating loop was created between my customers and my supply chain.