Recycle, Upcycle, and Repurpose: What’s the Difference?

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Let your creativity kick in, and you’ll find ways to recycle, reuse, and repurpose your thrift store finds past their “expiration date.”

Because these terms are often used interchangeably, let’s talk about the differences between the three and their roles in environmental sustainability.

There are many reasons people choose to go to thrift shops instead of the mall. This is because there are unique items at thrift stores you won’t find at conservative department stores, and the hauls, more often than not, save you way more money. You just need to know where to look and how to use your imagination. As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

What Is Recycling?

Recycling is a process encapsulating the breaking down of materials, such as metal, plastic, and glass, into their raw components instead of letting them rot in landfills. From there, the recycled product becomes something entirely new.

Delving deeper into the word’s meaning, it essentially revolves around extending a product’s lifespan or cycle instead of it coming to an untimely end; however, not every product can be recycled. There are different ways to find uses for such things, such as using them as they are (if possible), adding value, or repurposing them.

What Are the Benefits of Recycling?

There are many benefits to recycling, including:

  • Conserving natural resources;
  • Providing employment opportunities;
  • Reducing greenhouse gas production;
  • Saving money and energy; and
  • Keeping the earth clean.

What Can You Recycle?

  • Cartons
  • Aluminum
  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Cardboard
  • Textiles

What Is Upcycling?

“What then is the difference between recycling and upcycling?” When someone says to “upcycle” a product, they mean to enhance it. The concept became commercially known in 1990, and a man named Gary Chan, a resident of Hong Kong, is known for upcycling to construct bicycles. This process doesn’t affect or alter something’s original purpose; however, the appearance will be updated and revamped.

Why Upcycle?

If you have belongings that you’re planning to throw away, such as old chairs, dressers, or tables, consider upcycling them. It doesn’t require much energy, and it minimizes textile waste and water pollution. You can repair the damage, apply a new coat of paint, or reupholster it.

What Is Repurposing?

Repurposing entails taking a product and assigning it a new purpose it would be better suited for. For example, if you have shoes that no longer fit or are worn out, you don’t need to throw them away; they can be used as unique, makeshift plant pots to add a spark of personality to your garden.

What Can You Repurpose?

  • Books: You can transform old books into personalized journals or scrapbooks. If you’re into vintage art, this is a perfect way to use them.
  • Cups/Glasses/Mugs: For old glassware, you can use them as candle holders or pots for your herbs, succulents, and cacti. If you want to try a new form of art, try shattering chipped mugs, cups, and glasses and using them for mosaicing.
  • Mirrors: If your mirror breaks and you’re left with a mirror frame, you can use it as a frame for your kid’s chalkboard. You could also repurpose your old mirror into a magnetic board to put up photos, to-do lists, utility bills, and grocery lists.
  • Furniture: If you have an old wooden door, have a craftsman cut it smaller. You can use it as a new coffee or dining table. Putting a wood stain or varnish will cover up any imperfections.
  • Picture Frames: Old frames still have a purpose. Whip out your spray paint, and give them new life. The frames can serve as trays to keep your table free from clutter. They’re also perfect for mood boards. All you have to prepare is chicken wire, wooden clips, and printed photos.
  • Wooden Baskets: You can transform wooden baskets into pet beds. They’re also great as pots for your plants or to upgrade your light fixture.

Upcycling vs. Recycling vs. Repurposing: What’s the Difference?

To upcycle and recycle are different processes; however, they offer similar benefits, such as environmental sustainability and saving a considerable amount of money and energy.

Repurposing and upcycling are synonymous in that the products aren’t recycled; though, they differ significantly. With repurposing, a product’s original purpose is altered, while, on the other hand, upcycling maintains the original purpose and improves its pre-existing factors, such as appearance and efficiency.

What makes recycling unique is that the affected products undergo permanent changes. They are melted into raw materials to create new goods, effecting change in their chemical composition.

A recyclable item can only be recycled a specific number of times. For instance, plastic can only be put through the recycling process 7-9 times, while paper is only limited to six.

Despite all these differences, upcycling, repurposing, and recycling all have the same goal: to save the earth.

Visit Haven House Thrift Store!

Channel your creative side by upcycling old furniture or repurposing old clothes today.

If you’re looking for one of the best thrift stores in Sta. Rosa Beach, FL, Haven House is the place to be! Find affordable items ready to be repurposed or upcycled. There’s no better way to spice up your wardrobe and home. Visit us now.