Upcycling objects from the home or workplace by Richard Bloomfield at The Workplace Depot
Upcycling is the process of using something that is worn out or broken and making something better and more useful from it. Whereas ‘recycling’ is about taking waste and producing new raw materials, upcycling is about creating a new and useful product. Both are important in reducing waste and landfill as well as making better use of the dwindling resources of the planet. Before throwing anything substantial away from your home or place of work, always have a quick think about whether it can be recycled, or better still upcycled into something new and useful.
In this article I have found a few examples of some imaginative and creative ways that people have used objects to make something interesting rather than throwing them away.
In the world of art and design many people are looking towards ‘upcycling’ for inspiration – and of course a very cheap source of raw materials. There is probably not a town or city in the country where you could not go within a few hundred yards of a supermarket (or a river) and find a discarded, rusting and wheel-less trolley. A design company in Bedford have come up with a stylish shopping trolley chair which took pride of place in Prince Charles’ eco home at the Ideal Home Show 2011. It may not be to everyone’s taste but you couldn’t argue with it being a great talking piece in any home and is a wonderfully creative use of one of the most commonly discarded items on the planet!
Although you are unlikely to find a car engine lying around, if you do you could perhaps use it to make a coffee table. An original Rover V8 has been chrome powder-coated and set on ball and socket height adjustable feet with a toughened safety glass top – amazing!
Sticking with a design theme, one of the hottest items in the fashion world at the moment are book clutch purses. The example below shows Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with the inner cavity lined with wading, gold satin fabric, purple headed pins and lilac velvet ribbon edging to finish off the look. Although they require considerable time and effort plus trial and error to make, they are certainly a beautiful way to re-purpose something which could otherwise just be collecting dust on a book shelf or in a box in the loft.
On a less glamorous note, an area that is fertile territory for the avid upcycler is the commonplace door stop. The idea here is to find something fairly small and heavy and which you would not expect to be used as a door stop. Talk about money for old rope (old bricks, old hammers etc).
The grey metal filing cabinet is an icon of the pre-computerised office and a good example of an object that gets tossed away on the scrap heap. However, with a little bit of paint, some self-adhesive vinyl and multi-coloured film, the cabinet is completely transformed into something that you would actually want in your home and would be highly useful.
One Friday afternoon we sat in the office and decided if we could make something interesting out of an old kick step that someone was about to throw out. It was a struggle but as we had a Dr Who fan in our midst we set about re-making the kick step into a Dalek. An old hexagonal recycling bin (ironically!), some cardboard, blue paper and the mandatory toilet plunger later and we had a working Dalek.
Ok, the Dalek wasn’t great but it certainly glided beautifully and managed to go downstairs when we pushed it! There are some brilliant examples of other creative and innovative examples of upcycling – if you do a search for ‘upcycling’ on Pinterest you’ll see some wonderful images and possibly even our Dalek.
Richard Bloomfield is website editor for The Workplace Depot.