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Upcycling: What Is It?

Updated: May 27, 2021

When it comes to sustainability and the environment, recycling is usually the first thing people think of. Recycling is great, but it’s not the only way to be sustainable. Upcycling is a user-friendly method to reuse unwanted material that can be done with little to no hassle and from the comfort of your home.

By definition, upcycling is the act of reusing discarded objects or material to create something of higher quality or value than the original components. For example, most of us (if not all) have a ton of plastic bags stored away in our homes somewhere. What if I told you every single one of those bags can be repurposed and transformed into something of higher quality? That you can use them for more than just liner for the tiny waste bucket in your bathroom or bedroom? That they can be more than just a bag?

Balls of plarn

One thing that plastic bags can be transformed into is a material called plastic yarn, or plarn, for short. This is done simply by flattening and cutting a plastic bag into strips, and then, looping the strips through each other to create a chain. The chain can be rolled up into a ball, and what you have now is a ball of plarn! From here, there are a myriad of things you can do with it. If you can knit or crochet it with regular yarn, you can absolutely do it with plarn. The best part about using plarn? It’s upcycling!

Woman holding a plarn mat

In large cities, some organizations have used plarn to create mats for people experiencing homelessness to sleep on. Others have used plarn to create tote bags or household goods such as rugs, doormats, baskets, coasters, and even pillows! Plarn is an incredibly versatile material that can be used to create upcycled products, and the aforementioned products are just a few examples of its uses.

Man using a plarn mat

Here at UP Cycle Design, we upcycle textiles. We create and sell cloth stickers that are made from 100% upcycled material. The cloth stickers are made using discarded textiles and fused plastic bags and can decorate your laptop, journal cover, picture frames, or whatever you want! We have diverted 116 lbs. of fabric and over 85 plastic bags from landfills since the start of our organization. The cloth sticker also raises awareness about sustainability, environmental issues, and social causes, as they are caused-themed (check out our website for more info on the themes!).

Our stickers!

Plarn and our upcycled stickers are just two types of upcycled products. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few others: aluminum cans upcycled into flower pots, wine corks into wreaths, and mason jars into candles. By creating and/or using upcycled products, you are doing your part in the quest to create a healthier and more sustainable environment. Even better, upcycling is easily accessible to all. All you need is some creative flair and a desire to help, and you too can upcycle!

That being said, we would love to hear about some other ideas you might have for upcycling. Feel free to share in the comments below! We love to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions. Stay safe everybody, and we will see you back here next week!

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