Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Upcycle!?
Admittedly, my passion (and knack) for creativity is something that has always been a part of me. I have been making, tinkering and experimenting since I was a child; and, a lot of that was done with old materials and items. Going into my 30’s, I realized that I wanted to make a commitment to working exclusively with reclaimed and repurposed materials; but, why did I decide to “upcycle” at all?
My obsession with upcycling began when I successfully figured out how to crochet aluminum can pop-tabs some 10 years ago now. I was absolutely amazed by the durability, beauty and integrity of the products that I was making. It inspired me to “play” with other discarded materials: rubber innertubes, vinyl banners, plastic sheeting, etc. With each new material I was able to find practical uses that required moderate effort. Additionally, what I had as an end result was a high-quality, and often beautiful, handcrafted item.
As I began to work with local businesses to source materials, I was a bit overwhelmed by the shear amount of these post-consumer discards making their way to our local landfills. In addition to motivating me to do my part to rescue these resources, it piqued my interest in recycling in my community. This began another journey which would both solidify my commitment to repurposing and change my whole perspective on solid waste.
Unfortunately, I learned that my local community was not very progressive with recycling. This, however, was an effect of many circumstances: lack of facilities, exorbitant shipping costs, immense energy cost, political issues, environmental concerns and competition from lower-priced virgin materials. My community is not unique in this matter. In fact, this is more usual than unusual. According to National Geographic only 9% of ALL the plastics EVER produced have been recycled and according to Planet Aid the national recycling rate is only 34%. This is an incredibly missed opportunity that has caused an immeasurable problem.
Upcycling has the potential to make a major change in this world. Through upcycling, I am able divert mass from local landfills, educate about repurposing, change the way people look at materials and create unique handmade products. It also gives me the opportunity to present my community with a new way of thinking and hopefully inspire others to find meaning or beauty in that which is otherwise overlooked.