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What is Upcycling?

April 30, 2018

Most of us are familiar with the term recycling. We know when something is recyclable, the materials will be broken down and used again, most often to make something of similar of lesser value.
Upcycling is slightly different in that materials are broken down or added to, to form something of greater value and use.

A simple example would be, a cardboard box. A cardboard box could be broken down, processed and once again be recycled into a cardboard box; or it could be slightly altered, added to and upcycled into a dolls house.

The act of upcycling has been around for longer then we might think. Although the phrase was made popular by the work of William McDonough and Michael Braungart, in their book ‘Cradle To Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things’, many indigenous cultures practised the art of upcycling when they hunted or built shelter. For example, the first peoples of Australia used every part of an animal they hunted, including their skins to make clothing.

Of course, for cultures such as the Aboriginals, that was and still is a way of life. In today’s western societies, the rise of upcycling came out of a need for environmental protection. We are all now aware of the impact we are making on our environment, due to our throw-away society; the harm it is causing our oceans, atmosphere and other species sharing this planet. Since this has been discovered, people have begun to rethink the way we do certain things, especially the way we treat discarded objects.

Sometimes it is overwhelming to think how you as an individual can make a difference. The truth is, is that change starts small, and spreads over time. Individuals are what make up a community and if that is what we focus on, then our task becomes much simpler.

One factor you as an individual can be aware of, is what you wear and the accessories you buy. We have been heavily persuaded by ‘fast fashion’ corporations, that we need to keep up with constant trends. If you are to step back and observe that this system is designed purely to benefit those corporations, at the expense of our environment, you can begin to make more positive choices. These could be decisions such as; altering existing clothes/accessories you have, swapping clothes/accessories with friends or choosing ethical brands.

I am a passionate believer in upcycling, not only because of its sustainable approach, but because of the way it allows you to think creatively. Creating something out of what is essentially ‘trash’, is a true test of the imagination. There are so many amazing ideas out there, and the best part is we can access and share so much of it.

That is why I decided to start my business Cirqlate. Cirqlate is a collective of passionate upcyclers in Fremantle, WA. We sell a range of personal accessories and homewares, made using found and discarded objects.

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