Upcycling vs. Recycling: Differences + 8 Examples

To put it simply: recycling means breaking down an item to create something new from its raw materials (think a notebook being broken down and made into a to-go coffee cup) while upcycling means taking a product and modifying it to create something better (think an ill-fitting dress being cut and sewn into a blouse). 

Though they are both similar concepts, recycling and upcycling are actually different. Recycling oftentimes creates an entirely new product while upcycling typically ends up looking similar, but aims to create something of higher quality than the original. 

When it comes to your little one’s stuff and decluttering your home, getting into a sustainable parenting mindset by upcycling or recycling baby gear can help offset some of the environmental impact of children’s stuff. In fact, 100 million baby and kid items were thrown away in 2021, so finding ways to be more sustainable in your everyday life can make a big impact.

Let’s look at what it means to upcycle vs. recycle and how to do both with the stuff found around your home. 

Upcycling: Pros, Cons & Examples 

The term upcycling—also called creative reuse— is when you take an old item that you no longer use and modify it to be more practical, beautiful or useful than it was before. Ever heard of the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” That applies here. Upcycling is all about finding creative ways to turn items you don’t want into something you’ll love.

You can upcycle household items or do it with items you find at thrift stores or online. 


  • Reduces landfill waste
  • Saves you money
  • Lets you be creative
  • Can make it into an activity with the kiddos 


  • May require crafting materials you don’t already have
  • Can be difficult to do 
  • Takes time depending on the project 


How to Upcycle Your Baby & Kid Gear: 5 Examples 

Your little one’s baby gear is often sentimental. How can you let go of their first book, onesie or pair of shoes? If you don’t want to sell their stuff just yet, with just a little DIY, upcycling allows you to repurpose these items into something more useful or fashionable than they were before, so you can keep around sentimental items without letting them become clutter. 

Some examples of upcycling projects include: 

  • Collect old shirts, old jeans, onesies and other clothes and turn them into a quilt or throw blanket 
  • Cut old fabric into strips and make it into a bunting or garland
  • Frame pages of baby books and make them wall art
  • Cut out cute pages of kid books and use them as accents in a scrapbook or photo album
  • Use old Legos to create a cute bowl or vase for your little ones room


Recycling: Pros, Cons & Examples 

Recycling means breaking down an old object that is made of reusable material and reforming it into an entirely new item. Most people are probably familiar with putting aluminum cans, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes and glass jars in the recycling bin for pickup, but you can actually recycle many different types of things—including old baby stuff. 

Recycling baby items comes in two forms. Things like glass baby food containers, diaper boxes and plastic bags can be tossed out with the weekly recycling. But donating old baby items like strollers, clothes and toys to be resold or reused also counts as recycling, since the item will be put to use again. 


  • Easy to do
  • Reduces landfill trash
  • Reduces emissions from manufacturing new products


  • Some people don’t sort their recyclables correctly
  • Objects made from recycled materials are often lesser quality
  • The recycling process can be cost-inefficient for the city 


How to Recycle Your Baby & Kid Gear: 3 Examples 

Recycling is an easy way to do your part for the environment. Usually, it’s easy as donating your items to a thrift shop or listing them online to sell on consignment stores (like GoodBuy Gear!). 

  • Put it in the bin: Before you toss old baby food pouches, jars or plastic bags out with the garbage, check and see if they’re recyclable. Chances are they can be recycled and you can put them in your recycling bin to be made into something new. 
  • Donate it: Donating baby items that are gently used and in good condition can help them be reused by a family in need. Many thrift stores take baby items; just make sure to check each store’s specific guidelines for what you can donate. 
  • Sell your gear: Want to make a buck while you help the environment? Sell your baby gear. Online consignment shops like us accept a variety of baby and kid gear to be resold on our marketplace. Talk about a win-win. 

Sell Your Kids Stuff

Upcycling vs. Recycling: Which is Better? 

At the end of the day, each family is different. While some craftier families might enjoy the challenge of upcycling items, others might want the ease of selling an old stroller and know that it’s going to get a long second life. Either way: both upcycling and recycling are zero-waste practices that help the environment and give old baby gear a new use and a new life. 

If you do decide to pass on your baby items, sell them with a trusted retailer like Goodbuy Gear. Just last year our community of parents saved over 270,000 baby and kid items from landfills. And, we’re pledging to save one million baby and kid items from landfills before the end of 2024. 

Join the movement by shopping and selling secondhand with us! Our team of experts will pick up your items, quality-check them and list them for sale, so you don’t have to lift a finger. 



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