All of these words describe ways that consumers can prevent any given item from linear consumption. That is, upcycling, recycling, reusing and repurposing save an item from being used once and discarded to a trash bin.
But what is the difference between them? How is upcycling different from repurposing? Or reusing? And how does recycling fit it?
Upcycling vs. recycling: what’s the difference?
Recycling and upcycling are different things, and the words are not meant to be used interchangeably.
Recycling is the act of taking an item and breaking it down and reusing the components to make another new item. For example, when you finish with a plastic bottle, you rinse it out and place it in your recycle bin. Your recycling is hauled away to a recycling center, where the bottle is shredded and made into plastic pellets. Those pellets can be purchased and remade into a variety of different items, including clothing and rugs. An item that is recycled is only meant to be used once in its current form, like the plastic bottle that held your drink.
Upcycling, then, is the act of taking an item and adding value to it as it currently is so that it can be reused. A great example of upcycling would be taking an old pallet (that you found on a Buy Sell Trade site or picked up for free from a warehouse) and turning it into a couch or table for your home by adding some cushions and paint to it. You took a simple item, a pallet, and increased its value by turning it into furniture by adding a few touches. Brilliant!
Reusing vs. repurposing vs. upcycling: is there a difference?
The difference between repurposing, reusing and upcycling isn’t quite as clear as the difference between upcycling and recycling.
Reusing something means simply to use it again. If you buy a drink in a glass bottle and then clean the bottle and use it to drink out of again and again, you have reused the glass bottle.
Repurposing that same glass bottle might mean you clean it after you drink the liquid inside and you use it as a vase or a pencil holder. You haven’t really added any value to the glass bottle, so many would say that you have simply repurposed it.
However, if you took the glass bottle and painted it with a pretty pattern and added a few gems or beads and then filled it with water and used it as a vase for flowers, most would consider this upcycling. You increased the value of the bottle by decorating it and using it for a different task than it was initially intended.
Upcycling and Reusing Baby & Kid Gear
Baby gear is primed for linear consumption (being used once or for a short period of time and then discarded). Babies are only little for so long, and so much of their gear has a finite amount of use. Baby clothing, baby carriers, nursing accessories, teething items. So many of these items are only useful to new parents for a short amount of time, despite their often high cost.
Reusing and upcycling baby gear is a great way for parents to feel as if they aren’t simply overspending for their new baby only to discard their items a short time later. So many of these expensive baby gear items you purchased or received for your little bundle can be reused or even upcycled to pass on savings to new parents.
Give your old items new life by allowing parents to reuse your items with us. You can turn the items your baby has outgrown into cash for yourself and enable new parents to buy gently used but high dollar items at a discount. The item gets reused, and therefore saved from a landfill, and both you and the new parents who received your previously-loved item gain financially. This is a great example of how reusing things has so many benefits.
If there are items you are particularly sentimental about (and who isn’t? Babies are only babies for such a short time!), consider upcycling them.
Here are a few examples of great ways to upcycle your baby’s gear to commemorate that time:
- Collect sentimental onesies, t-shirts, outfits and blankets and turn them into a quilt. Simply cut all of the items down a single size, preserving the important parts of each outfit, and then sew the squares together to form a blanket. You can snuggle with this item on the couch long after your baby has grown!
- Take nursing covers and car seat covers and turn them into scarves to wear in colder weather. Commemorate your child’s babyhood by making items no longer relevant to your life into pretty accessories.
- Have a lot of swaddle blankets lying around? Cut them into strips and use them to make colorful, trendy garland for your child’s room (or as birthday party décor). There’s a great tutorial here!
Whatever you decide to do with your old baby gear, consider giving it a second life after you have used it as long as you are able. If you don’t have to toss something, don’t! there are so many ways for preowned baby and kids items to be loved again and again long after your baby outgrows them. Save them from the landfills by upcycling, repurposing, reusing or recycling!