Upcycling is the practice of recuperating materials, objects or products that are no longer of use to transform them into new products of higher quality or value.
It is truly a form of upwards recycling as it increases the value of the recycled elements by integrating them in the manufacturing of a high-end product, which will often be used in an entirely new context versus its origin components. There are numerous benefits to upcycling, notably savings in raw materials and grey energy (the energy used throughout a product or material’s normal lifecycle).
Upcycling is a very creative process that also restores value to products that would normally end up in landfills for lack of use. The term was popularized in the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things written by the architect William McDonough and the chemist Michael Braungart in 2002, but was already present in the vernacular of numerous designers and entrepreneurs as early as the 1990s. Fun fact, the book Cradle to Cradle is typically meant to be printed on plastic sheets with a soy-based ink (that’s erasable), which means the book itself can be both up and recycled.