WHAT IS UPCYCLING?

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The world is talking about upcycling in a big way. Currently, we are using 60% more resources than the Earth can provide (Source: World Economic Forum). Fuelled by conscious consumption and growing awareness about the circular economy, upcycling has become popular in more ways than one.

But, what exactly is the meaning of upcycling?

WHAT UPCYCLING MEANS?

Upcycling is when pre-consumer or post-consumer waste materials, or a combination of the two, is given a new lease of life to create newer products with better quality, renewed purpose and a higher environmental value. It involves creatively repurposing materials and/or products that would otherwise be seen as waste to be discarded or thrown, into something potentially new and of greater value. For upcycling, definitions may be multiple, however, the bottom line is that an upcycled product is better than the original one. Upcycling greatly supports a circular economy, by minimizing the need and use of resources, cutting waste and thereby reducing carbon emissions.

Products we upcycle

We at Rimagined are powered by our vision to build a culture of conscious consumption coupled to promote regular usage of repurposed products. Since our journey began in 2016, we’ve focussed on multiple arenas for upcycling. We infuse a lot of R(e)imagination in all of our products. Our expert team meticulously handcrafts each item with a lot of dedication and precision. Time and again we also divert our energies into innovating existing products. Our three main focus areas are Fashion and Home Décor and Furnishings.

FASHION

From stoles to sarees - you name it we have it! We’ve infused our R(e)creativity in our apparel line and accessory collection. Materials and fabrics such as Mangalagiri cotton and linen are upcycled to create tops and kurtas for women. Leftover silk and cotton yarns are delicately handcrafted into warm stoles and beautiful sarees. For bags and accessories, we make the best use of waste denim and the inner tubing of rubber tyres. We have laptop backpacks to luggage bags that are not only stylish but also very practical.

Home Décor and Furnishings

Our upcycled furnishings and home décor items use materials like denim, wood, cotton sarees, wool, etc.
Denim is used for bed covers and bedsheets, while cotton and wool make gorgeous home accents such as throws and rugs.
Wood is creatively repurposed for wooden stools and ottomans, while cotton is woven into durries for cushion covers.

Recycling vs Upcycling

Before upcycling as a term became widespread, the term ‘recycling’ often got thrown around.
So, what is recycling?
It is the process of collecting waste, breaking them down and converting them into new products. Plastic, paper, etc. are some of the most common recyclables that are collected, sent to facilities to sort, clean, and processed into new materials or products. For example, plastic bottles are melted down and reused to create plastic items.
However, this process is different from upcycling. Below are the differences:

Upcycling vs Remanufacturing

Remanufacturing is the process by which a used, worn out or non-functional part or a product is rebuilt as new or restored to its working order better than the original. In this process, the product is rebuilt with new parts and is restored to a new-like quality in appearance and functionality. Remanufacturing is best used where the product is of high value, complex, and long-lasting. Examples include AC units, photocopiers, machine tools, car and truck engines and aerospace equipment. Though both contribute to a circular economy, there are a few points of differences between remanufacturing and upcycling processes. In terms of application, remanufacturing is carried out in industrial, automobile, IT, and technical industries, whereas upcycling is concentrated in the fashion, lifestyle and home décor sectors. Upcycling can give a whole new purpose to an existing product, like denim being used for making aprons, bed covers or laptop sleeves. While remanufacturing is usually focussed on the same or better use of the original.

Methods and Techniques used in Upcycling

A range of methods and techniques form a part of the upcycling process. These can vary depending on the type of product and material in use.

Subtraction

This involves reducing some part of the material/ product by cutting, slashing or laser cutting. For example, cut off the sleeves of a T-shirt to turn it into a dress.

Refunction

This means to using one or more products and transforming them into another product with a different purpose. Example – We upcycle denim bottoms into a laptop bag. Furthermore, cutting, colouring, folding, adding, patching and joining, and weaving are the techniques in use for repurposing fabrics. Our accessories line includes an array of bags with attractive patchwork designs.

Addition

It involves adding or attaching any enhancing details. This can be further classified into embellishment addition, surface design and textile manipulation.
• Embellishment addition: Adding beads, embroidery, fringe or patchwork. Example – We add
• intrinsic hand embroidery on our denim bedcovers.
• Surface Design: Painting, stamp-printing or screen printing. Example – We’ve had artists hand paint Gond tribal artwork on the pallus of cotton sarees.
• Textile Manipulation: Pleats, smocking, pin-tucks, etc. Example – Durries are woven from strips derived from old cotton sarees. These are used as upholstery as well as combined with rubber to create bags.

Deconstruction

This method changes the shape of the material/ product by dividing or reassembling it.
Example – Old or excess wood parts are used to create the legs of a stool.

How is Upcycling Eco-friendly

Upcycling initiatives positively impact the environment in a big way.
Here’s how:

Lesser Pollution

Production and manufacturing of goods require a substantial amount of land, water, non-renewable energy sources, chemicals, labour and other resources. During production processes, these industrial units cause pollution that remains untreated for a very long time, which directly or indirectly causes health issues. Upcycling means lesser generation of air pollution, water pollution and CO2 emissions, thereby decreasing the harm we cause to our planet.

Need for fewer new resources

When we upcycle, we already have the material in hand, thereby reducing the need for new raw materials. This in turn reduces the use of fossil fuels, water, and other natural resources used to process raw materials into a finished product.

Less landfill waste

The key benefit of upcycling is having less material make its way to landfills. When more and more waste is dumped in landfills, methane is emitted. This is of major concern because methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases since it absorbs more of the sun’s heat than carbon dioxide, thereby, making it a leading contributor to climate change. Thus, fewer materials ending up in landfills will greatly contribute towards our planet’s long-term health.

How can one help in upcycling as an individual?

Upcycling may have been popularised lately, however, it is something that many of us unknowingly follow. Be it repurposing PET bottles as planters, creatively using an old saree or kurta into a skirt or a top, or crafting paper bags out of newspapers, are some of the day-to-day real-life examples where we have intuitively found ways of upcycling old and used products.
It may seem like a drop in the ocean, but small, sustainably focused decisions can go a long way towards the health of our planet. Like rethinking our attitude towards a linear ‘use and throw’ mantra. Like supporting the many budding entrepreneurial ventures that truly focus on building useful, R(e)imagined repurposed products created using sustainable and eco-friendly processes.
The best way is to R(e)think before discarding old and buying new items. For old items, ask ‘How can I reuse this?’ and before buying something new, ask ‘Do I REALLY need this?’ It is all about taking that extra step forward, towards making more such progressive and eco-conscious choices for your family, yourself and thereby, our planet.