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As per a United Nations Report, every year we dump a massive 2.12 billion tons of waste. If all this waste was put on trucks they would go around the world 24 times. This astonishing amount of waste is partly because 99 percent of the stuff we buy is trashed within 6 months. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has made each one of us re-think & introspect about how much we used to buy during pre-covid times, only to realise how living with less is actually more fulfilling. The compulsion of staying inside our house has resulted in us thinking out-of-the box & creatively reusing what we already own. This is what upcycling stands for. It is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value.

Upcycling has gained a lot of momentum in fashion in the past few years but there are various other sectors that have been practising this art of creating treasure from trash. Here’s a brief overview about how upcycling can be incorporated in different sectors.

Upcycled E-waste 

Global e-waste dumping is a worrying trend. Electronic waste (e-waste) typically includes discarded computer monitors, motherboards, mobile phones, chargers, compact discs, headphones, television sets, air conditioners and refrigerators. According to the World Economic Forum, 50 million tonnes of e-waste is produced globally each year, and left unchecked this could more than double to 120 million tonnes by 2050. 

In 2016-17, India treated only 0.036 MT of its e-waste. However, consumers can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in these landfills. How? Recycling is one option. But can we reuse discarded electronics without dismantling them? If we upcycle these items, yes!

Unlike recycling, upcycling repurposes old items. In this way, e-waste ceases to be waste and becomes useful. Old wires or screws can be transformed into a pair of earrings. Use an old plastic chassis as a mailbox. Be creative and turn them into toys, art, home decor, accessories.

Fun Fact: Did you know 14th October is celebrated as International E-Waste Day to raise awareness on e-waste problems. 

RELATED: Do you know the difference between Upcycling & Recycling?   

Upcycled packaging 

The movement toward eco-friendly packaging that began among progressive consumer packaged goods a few years back is now reaching further into the mainstream world. Today, an increasing number of marketers from a wide array of consumer brands have not only embraced sustainable packaging, but are pushing innovation in new directions.

According to a recent global survey by Accenture, 83% of people believe it’s important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused.

One of the trends that came out of this is upcycled packaging. While this is fairly new, people are already innovating on how to create packaging that does not need to be necessarily recycled but also made of old items to create something that is more useful. 

Envelopes or Bags for gifting can be made out of newspapers. Send out handwritten notes to your loved ones on a handmade paper made out of your paper waste. 

 

Upcycled food 

We humans waste a lot of food! The challenge for the food industry is how to achieve a significant reduction in the 1.3 billion tons of food produced globally for human consumption which is wasted – given that the majority of the wastage comes from individual homes.

It wasn’t long ago that imperfectly shaped peppers would find their way to a rubbish pile before even making it to the kitchen. In the past few years, food upcycling has proved to be a great way to repurpose waste food. It means taking foods or ingredients that we used to generally discard— such as broccoli leaves, odd coloured bell peppers, strangely shaped tomatoes, or pulp that remains after juicing produce— and cleverly repurposing them to produce high-quality cuisine. Professional and home chefs have been reaching for those peppers, turning them into delicious omelettes or using them as an ingredient in pizza sauce. Regrained is one such company that rescues the nutritious spent grain that’s left over from brewing beer. It’s packed with protein, nutrients, and fiber, including prebiotic fiber. ReGrained upcycles it into a hearty flour called SuperGrain+, which they then use to make snack bars.

new study from Future Market Insights found that Upcycled food waste industry was worth $46.7 billion in 2019 and has an expected Compound Annual Growth Rate  of 5% for the next 10 years.

( Image Credits- Better India )

Upcycled Automobile

The Indian automobile industry is the fourth largest in the world. By 2025 there could be 22 million obsolete vehicles in India that would need to be taken care of. Due to lack of regulations, vehicle scrapping poses a great threat to our environment. Government has been trying to use scrap parts and secondary steel from automobiles as raw materials for manufacturing units, urban/rural infrastructure projects that require steel and are also looking into exporting it.

We often have cars that don’t work anymore and we resort to selling them off at very cheap prices or we have a vintage car that is just so beautiful that we don’t want to sell it off even if it has become all rusted and does not work anymore. Sometimes it could also be our first car that we don’t want to let go off. The reasons can be many but the idea of upcycling an automobile opens up an array of possibilities. You can turn car seats into sofa sets, some parts of it can simply be cleaned, framed and used as wall mountings. This is not exactly a DIY project but something where you can take help from your local garage or a friend who has knowledge about fixing cars. You can even include interior designers in with you to help you customise car parts according to colours and designs that match your taste. If you are drawn to the idea of designing a pad with automobile parts, source them from automobile junk markets. Almost every city in India has one! You'd be surprised.

Upcycled Green Spaces

Spaces built with upcycled materials have increased by 175% over the last four years. Those involved in urban planning and architecture are conceptualising green oases that enhance the inherently ecologically friendly nature of green spaces, by designing them with waste materials. The reformatting of how these environments are built sets a precedent for urban landscapes seeking to reduce their carbon footprint, and transform waste in the process. People are using eco bricks to create their garden space, turning old tyres into new furniture or glass bottles for interiors. According to Airbnb, hosts are turning their rental spaces into eco friendly homes especially for eco conscious travellers. 

For example, turning old transportation trunks into mini vacation homes. Recently Aurangabad, India based Gargi, an upcycling enthusiast built her home by upcycling waste items. 

( Image Credits - Better India )

 

Upcycled Flowers

In India, people like to show their religious devotion with flowers. Lots and lots of flowers.

Every year, some 800 million tons of blossoms – red roses, yellow marigolds, prickly xanthiums – are deposited at the nation’s temples, mosques and gurudwaras, creating a colourful, but challenging waste problem.

Because the flowers have been used for worship, they’re sacred, and therefore can’t be just sent to landfill. Hindu temples often throw the spent flowers into River Ganges, a venerated waterway. But this just exacerbates the Ganges’s legendary pollution: The flowers are sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals that leach into the environment. To tackle this problem a company called Help us green has come up with ideas to upcycle flowers into incense sticks and soap bars. They have managed to turn this business into a profitable one. It also has its own term called Flowercycling. Some people also use discarded flowers to make garlands and party decorations. This saves you from using plastic, looks fresh and the best part - it gives a natural fragrance to the whole area. Can you think of ways to upcycle flowers?

 (Source- Help us green)


Hence, it’s important for us to understand that the term "upcycle" means creating something of greater value, so anything that is upcycled is in fact something that you should proudly own. 

When you purchase these products, it helps make the expensive process of transforming waste to goods more cost effective and give rise to a whole new market. Specially during this difficult time, we urge you not only to give upcycling a try on your own but also support brands, local businesses, non governmental organisations and individuals that promote and sell upcycled products. 

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