Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.
The goal of upcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials by making use of existing ones. This reduces the consumption of new raw materials when creating new products. Reducing the use of new raw materials can result in a reduction of energy usage, air pollution, water pollution and even greenhouse gas emissions.
Upcycling is the opposite of downcycling, which is the other half of the recycling process. Downcycling involves converting materials and products into new materials of lesser quality. Most recycling involves converting or extracting useful materials from a product and creating a different product or material.
For example, during the recycling process of plastics other than those used to create bottles, many different types of plastics are mixed, resulting in a hybrid. This hybrid is used in the manufacturing of plastic lumber applications. However, unlike the engineered polymer ABS which hold properties of several plastics well, recycled plastics suffer phase-separation that causes structural weakness in the final product.
In developing countries, where new raw materials are often expensive, upcycling is commonly practiced, largely due to impoverished conditions.
Upcycling has seen an increase in use due to its current marketability and the lowered cost of reused materials. Inhabitat, a blog devoted to sustainability and design, holds an annual upcycling design competition with entries coming from around the globe.
Upcycling has shown significant growth across the United States. For example, the number of products tagged with the word “upcycled” increased from about 7,900 in January 2010 to nearly 30,000 a year later—an increase of 275 percent. As of October 2011, that number stood at nearly 167,000, an additional increase of 450%.
-page referenced from Wikipedia