Nov 23,2021

Recycling & upcycling

‘Recycling is righteous and upcycling is modern and righteous’[1]. That was the thesis made almost 20 years ago by Wiliam McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, published in 2002. A German architect, Reiner Pilz, is believed to be the one who came up with the term ‘upcycling’. Although the trend has been known worldwide for almost 30 years, in Poland, unfortunately, hardly anyone knows what it is and how it can be used. So what is upcycling, then? According to Wikipedia, it’s ‘the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products perceived to be of greater quality’[2]. In other words, upcycling is a higher form of recycling that transforms the recyclable materials in such a way that by the end they turn into much better products. For example, it might be furniture made out of pallets, a handbag made out of old materials, or houses made out of shipping containers.

Second life of waste products

ends up in the trash. And that’s that. But today, we know that most of the waste can be used again. This kind of attitude results, most importantly, in slowing down the amount of produced waste, and additionally, it allows us to change its functionality or to convert it into something else entirely. According to, ‘using 600 cans can be used to make a bicycle frame; using 3 – to make an eyeglasses frame. Out of 35 popular PET bottles, we can make a fleece jacket’[3]. It’s important to keep in mind that upcycling is not only a specific way of making products. It is also a crucial voice in the discussion on the subject of taking responsibility for our environment. The visible to the naked eye, ongoing climate changes continue to have a major influence on the lives of our planet’s inhabitants. So what should we do? Segregate! Naturally. J

Fun facts[4]

Do you know that:

– One plastic bottle takes about 500 years to decompose and an aluminium can –from 200 to 400 years.

– Aluminium cans can be recycled indefinitely. Coverting a ton of aluminium saves 4 tons of ore and 700 kilograms of oil.

– Almost an entire car (80–95%) meant for scrapping can be recycled.

– Producing 1 ton of paper requires about 17 trees. Throughout one year, those trees would produce enough oxygen for 170 people.

Glass packaging can be recycled indefinitely. Reusing one glass bottle saves 1100 W of energy required to make a new bottle. The same energy is enough to watch TV for 5.5 hours or use a computer for 22 hours.

One battery from an electronic watch can poison up to 400 litres of water. Don’t throw out batteries into the trash. Return them at special collection points or throw them into a special container at specific stores.

Paper towels, greasy paper or tissues can’t be recycled. Throw them out with your mixed waste.

– A milk carton contains energy value which can be used to power a 40 W lightbulb for 1.5 hours.

– Throughout a year, you throw out about 66 plastic PET bottles. Don’t let them end up on a rubbish dump. Segregate!


Author: Andrzej/ translated by Konrad






Source of title image: Personal archive

The article was created as part of project called Teenage Action for the Environment. The project is conducted thanks to the grant from Active Citizens Fund National, financed by EEA.