Sustainability has been a major topic of conversation in the retail industry, and with retailers and brands. They are adapting more and more to stay relevant and offer sustainable solutions to their consumers. Customers are caring more about it as well: 93% of global consumers expect more of the brands they use to support local social and environmental issues, according to a report by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). The report also found that an estimated 68 million adult Americans base purchasing decisions on their values – personal, social, and environmental – and say they will spend up to 20% more on environmentally sound products.
Retailers and brands of all sizes can take steps to become more sustainable by implementing green initiatives.
This is where one of the most popular concepts in the industry came to life: upcycling.
Let’s start with the technical one: Yi et. al. define upcycling as the conversion of waste materials to something useful or valuable, underlining it as a useful concept that can be applied not only to the waste design industry but also to waste recycling and resource circulation.
More simply, upcycling is reusing discarded objects or materials to create a product of a higher quality or perceived value than the original. Upcycling reduces raw material waste by reusing using it to create new products. This can be applied to many industries including fashion and furniture.
The difference between upcycling and recycling is that recycling takes materials like paper, metal, plastic, or glass and breaks them down – hence creating a new product (typically of more inferior quality). And as we’ve seen, upcycling doesn’t mean breaking down materials but rather sorting and reusing them in a different, often more useful way.
According to Richardson, remanufacturing can be understood as a method of extending product lifecycles through reuse and refabrication of products in closed-loop cycles (in other words, contained within a single product line). On the other hand, the goal of upcycling is to reuse and refashion used products to make them into a completely different and enhanced product making more an open-loop cycle than a single line of production.
If we look at upcycling from a large-scale perspective, we can say that generally speaking, it contributes to the reduction of CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases. Because it contributes ultimately to reducing carbon emissions by extending lifespans of used materials, components, and products, and spending less energy in extracting, transforming, new ones or recycling.
One big misconception about upcycling is that the end product will have lower quality and lifespan than a newly manufactured product. However, this is fortunately false.
Upcycling converts a material into something of greater value than it originally was. Whereas upcycling is more energy-efficient and materials are not broken down or degraded – instead, they are reimagined and repurposed – adding value and quality while making the lifespan of the material longer!
We focus at Zap Idea on designing and producing the best quality pieces that are surely unique due to the nature of upcycling. It is more than possible to be environment-friendly and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases emission while owning top-quality products that adhere to the Golden Ratio in design.
Upcycling opens the door to creativity and innovation. It is not only limited to repurposing old cabinets and doors or resuing handles and shelves: there are no limits to the power of creativity in upcycling furniture and other household items.
To conclude, the quality of the upcycled item has the same or even better quality than the original. So what are you waiting for?