What is meant by upcycling, downcycling, recycling?


Taking something that would have been thrown away and turned into something useful, better or beautiful. Reusing or altering an object using very little waste or energy in the process, extending the life of that object. Upcycling has a positive impact on the environment, it’s very eco-friendly. In the image above someone has made a grocery bag from rice milk cartons.

With a little imagination, you can upcycle many things turning old into new that would otherwise end up on the rubbish tips.

Kitchen waste to liquid nutrients & compost. A wormery is a perfect example of upcycling it turns your kitchen waste (scraps and peelings) into rich natural liquid and solid fertilizer for all your gardening needs. It is taking something you would throw away into something better and useful, using very little energy.

jeans to bagThe images opposite show a bag I made from my old jeans lined in fabric from a cotton shirt.

Quality cotton shirts can also be upcycled into girls dresses, children’s pyjama bottoms, be part of a patchwork. Remember to save the buttons.

However, if you decide to rip the shirt up for cleaning cloths that would be downcycling.

If you can’t sew but would like to I suggest you take some sewing classes that cover the aspects of upcycling from bagyour own clothes or charity finds.

Always buy good quality, easier to find in the better areas. Besides a) helping the environment, b) having fun c) get a sense of achievement, you will also be d) helping charity and e) saving money. Even if an item seems clean always clean them first. In the case of woollen fabrics get them dry cleaned before you start the process of upcycling. Or if you’re not worried about shrinkage, the woollen fabric can be hand washed carefully and dried naturally. I have even put the woollen stuff in the washing machine, it just depends what I want the fabric for afterwards.


For instance taking plastics bottles that are recycled into a lesser quality plastic to make black plastic bin liners. There is some debate about the considerable energy that might be expended in the process of turning one object into another.

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