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Up-cycling: Try the new way to recycle

Submitted by Taylor Hoffard on September 19, 2011 – 1:21 pmNo Comment

Michelle Zengulis, senior strategic communications major, made a rug out of an old sheet. Almost anything can be up-cycled. Photo by Taylor Hoffard

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, they say, and up-cycling is just one way some people are reusing what some consider trash.

Up-cycling is the process of converting waste or ‘useless’ products into new materials or products of better quality. For example, wine corks can be used to make a dart board.

The recycling of glass, paper, aluminum and plastic has been going on for years. But with up-cycling, instead of disposing of items such as receipts or cardboard, you make a whole new working item with those items.

Up-cycling was coined by William McDonough and Michael Braugart in the book, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,” published in 2002.

In addition to environmental benefits, up-cycling promotes creativity and can even save you money.

During the summer Michelle Zengulis, senior strategic communications major, took an old sheet and made a rug out of it.

“I saw the instructions on,” Zengulis said. “I ripped [a king size sheet] into strips about an inch wide and started crocheting. I kept going until I ran out of strips.”

Another example of up-cycling would be the Stuck at Prom Contest. Stuck at Prom is an online contest where couples make their entire prom attire out of duct tape, for the chance to win scholarship money. To participate, create your prom dress and tux and take a picture at prom, to ensure they were actually worn to the dance.

Up-cycling has generated a profit for some. Marty Stevens-Heebner founded Rebagz; a company that makes purses and bags out of juice packs and nylon rice sacks. You can also get a variety of  up-cycled items at is a great resource for up-cycling ideas.

In spring of 2010, Terracycle began selling their products in Walmart. Terracycle uses packaging from products like Capri Sun, Lays and Oreos to create new products. Target also began showing a line of clocks and picture frames, made out of vinyl records or circuit boards.

The Green Corner Store, located on Main Street in Little Rock, opened in 2009, as Arkansas’ first eco lifestyle store. They feature handcrafted merchandise from local artists, including apparel, personal items and home products. The store also offers seasonal foods and gifts.


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