An Alternative to Recycling – Upcycling


In a world where we’re all encouraged to recycle, recycle, recycle, it’s easy to go along with it and feel empowered and assured that we’re doing the right thing. And you absolutely are! The plastic bottles go in this box, the card goes in the other box and so on.

A Great Thing

Recycling is a great thing, there’s no doubting that. The repurposing of waste materials into something new and valuable is something that should be celebrated, taught and encouraged. And it is.

But to really get to the heart of what it means to go green, you have to unpick the phenomenon of recycling from the perspective of the wider world. You have to reach out.

Small Scale

Now your local elementary school, with their poster competition or recycling initiative is great for the local area, and neighborhoods everywhere benefit from small scale schemes like these. They educate the adults of the future and mobilise the community to attack an ongoing problem, but what about big businesses? What about multinational companies? Do they have prizes for the most bottle caps collected or the most neatly colored in poster? Not likely.

The Little Guy

The sad truth is that with materials like plastic, new is cheaper than recycled, and with margins on their mind, new plastic is forever entering circulation, at a rate that far outweighs the amount that is recycled. The work of the little guy shouldn’t be underestimated, but it has to be looked at in relation to the bigger picture. So should you down tools and give up? Should you throw everything into the trash and forget about the recycling bins? Absolutely not! But, you might want to try and add another string to your bow. Welcome to the world of upcycling.

Break the Stereotype

You might think that upcycling is something for hoarders or the stereotypical bag ladies and hillbillies. You’d be wrong. Upcycling can be fun, it can be chic or it can be shabby, and it’s most definitely green. Even better still, anyone can do it.

Take your walking boots for example, they’re so full of non recyclable materials or materials that are more difficult to recycle, like rubber and leather, that you’d normally just toss them out. But what about repurposing those old shoes into planters? It doesn’t take much handy work to convert a pair of old boots into a pair of rustic looking hanging baskets.

Inspire a Wider Audience

If you’re the gardening type, you can go even further. If you’re looking to inspire a wider audience through your efforts to go green, you could reach so many more with the help of Whether your tips are about transforming milk bottles into planters, or organizing larger scale action, reach as many people as you can with Social10x and their mastery of social media. Going back to the milk bottles, why not decorate them with waterproof paint or fashion them into faces? This can be a great project for home or school, that the kids will love. But if you don’t share these things with the world, they just don’t happen by themselves! Things like this will also teach them how to be more economical with their waste as well. You have to accept that not every item you upcycle is going to suddenly become worth a small fortune to someone else, but the value of spending an afternoon crafting some planters with the family is worth its weight in gold. Give it a try and if nothing else, at least you’ll save money on plant pots and hanging baskets.

The Easy Option

If you’re not so skilled with a craft knife, or if you’re not feeling as green fingered as the previous suggestion requires, there is an even easier upcycling hack that will save you time and money.

When you finish the butter, or the chocolate spread, the container usually gets cleaned out and recycled, or worse still its left uncleaned and tossed in the trash. The sandwich you’ve just prepared gets locked up tightly in a tupperware container that you’ve already stained with tomato soup and you’ll probably lose it somewhere anyway. Have you spotted the link yet? Instead of buying expensive designer tupperware, which admittedly is better than single use plastic, you can go a step further by creating your own tupperware type product. A large tub of butter can make the perfect sandwich box, whilst a plastic jar of chocolate spread could be used for saving and freezing soups or stews. It’s simple when you think about it, but it’s a great way of up upcycling plastic, being more green and ensuring less plastic enters the murky world of landfill sites and commences the slow infusion to an already strained ecosystem.

Many Hands Make Light Work

So the work of the little guy is to be applauded, not maligned, but if you can add upcycling to your everyday ethos, in line with recycling, then you’re sure to make going green as fun and productive as it is environmentally friendly. Many hands make light work though, so go tell the world with Social10x.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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