Our founder is quoted in a recent Entrepreneur.com article: “Upcycling Becomes a Treasure Trove for Green Business Ideas: Forget recycling. Reusing materials discarded in the manufacturing process is a growing force behind a fresh new industry.”
If you’re not up on the green lingo, the best way to think of upcycling is that it’s like a sexier, even greener version of recycling. When something is recycled (or “downcycled”), it’s broken down into something of lesser quality–a process that consumes energy. Upcycling adds value by transforming or reinventing an otherwise-disposable item into something of higher quality. It’s the ultimate in reuse–and a whole new industry sector is shaping up around it. ….
Before the Industrial Revolution, when new technologies made it more cost-effective to create new (often nonbiodegradable) things rather than reuse them, upcycling was a fact of life. Fabrics were separated into fibers like wool and cotton, broken down again and spun into new products. Henry Ford even practiced an early form of upcycling, using the crates car parts were shipped in as vehicle floorboards.
Upcycling’s resurgence in the business world can be traced to the 2002 publication of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, a book (printed on a synthetic paper made from plastic resins and inorganic fillers) by architect-and-chemist duo William McDonough and Michael Braungart proposing the idea that manufacturers were practicing a “cradle-to-grave” production approach, which recycling just wasn’t good enough to counteract.
McDonoug … agrees that a growing number of companies are prioritizing the benefits of upcycling–and enjoying its business advantages. “Smart manufacturers understand that thinking of use cycles means thinking about a customer’s long-term relationship with a product and brand,” he says.
The challenge, of course, is making sure the application of cradle-to-cradle philosophy isn’t too superficial–and makes good business sense.