Recycling may seem like a chore to most people but to creative types, or anyone on a budget like a student, there are plenty of ways discarded materials can be used to create functional pieces of furniture and even works of art. In recent years it’s become increasingly popular and fashionable to create unique objects for the home using what would once have been scrapheap fodder.
While the process of giving waste materials new life by turning them into something useful again could be classed as recycling there’s a word has been coined to distinguish itself from the more general term, and that word is upcycling. Although first coined in 1994 it’s only in recent years that the phrase has become more widely used.
For example the number of items tagged as being “upcycled” on craft-based ecommerce site Etsy has risen from about 8,000 in 2010 to over 260,000 in 2013. This is great news and shows the upcycling movement is growing. Websites like upcycling.co.uk have also sprung up, offering inspiration for new projects.
A good starting point for an upcycling project is the humble yet versatile wooden pallet. Designed to make the lives of forklift truck drivers easier wooden pallets can be the perfect building blocks for a unique piece of furniture that will last a long time. Popular pallet projects include various forms of seating, such as sofas and chairs, and tables.
Similarly crates are a popular and easily attainable item, and can be used to create rustic looking storage spaces and sturdy tables.
When it comes down to it there’s no limit to the things which can be created through upcycling. Some more unusual ideas include making handbags out of old books, bracelets out of forks and desk tidies out of old game controllers. Another unique upcycling idea which has become popular is turning an old shopping trolley into a rolling chair.
For students some more easily achievable ideas including re-purposing an old cork board as a jewellery sorter, using Frisbees to support paper plates and turning a broken mini fridge into a storage unit for video games and console accessories.
It doesn’t take much to get involved and many of the most popular upcycling materials are common in scrap heaps and freely available, though obviously it’s wise to ask permission from the property owner before taking anything.
It’s also not hard to find materials for upcycling online, through classified ads, and it can be surprising what people are giving away for free. The beauty of this is that it benefits everyone involved and helps to reduce the amount of waste that might otherwise be going straight to the landfill.