Upcycle, yes you can

We make about 2 billion tonnes of waste every year. That is too much for Mother Earth.

“We” are mainly the consumers, the Western society. Including China, being our workshop.

A small part of  the waste, we take care for ourselves, to recycling, incinerators or landfill. The big chunk ends up in the poor countries, like Bangla Desh, parts of India. It comes there with big ships and even the ships themselves are disassembled overthere. Check here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYb3wa7V5Bk to a ship beaching to its graveyard or here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRrbYRE4JSA for the background.

What they do is some reuse and recycling. They burn the rest. But not in high temperature incinerators. It is just a fire, so that creates toxic emissions, like dioxines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The pollution comes in the air, water and soil and it creates cancer, lung deseases and other slow ways of dying.

The mantra

What can we do against it. First the mantra:

  • Rethink if you need it,
  • Refuse if you doubt still.
  • Reduce if you need less,
  • Reuse if you can see life in it,

Recycling is the option when you don’t see life in it. But please realize that in general recycling is environmentally and economically a losers game. Because it takes a lot of work, energy and costs and it has environmental impact. Think of glass bottles, or steel. It is often downcycling; you can only make less quality products out of it.

If it is not even worth recycling, then the process of care starts. This waste treatment will be unhealthy or very unhealthy. Will have a big environmental impact or a very big one. See above.

Recycling is better than only the landfill, but it gives a serious footprint of work, gas, oil, money and environmental impact.

Reuse what you have

You have stuff and want to get rid of it? Reusing can be a beautiful thing.

Perhaps you can repair it. Call or email the vendor and simply ask where to repair it. Nowadays you can see a product repair as your right, or the inherent right of any product. So go for it. You can feel cheated if the vendor did not organize this care. Such care is called ‘product stewardship’ and it started already in the eighties of the last century as a normal element of any quality company..

You can sell it, even when it is broken, through second hand websites. If you take some time for pictures and you have some patience, most of the things will sell itself.

Its second life is often its last life. Mostly the reuse is a form of downcycling. An old TV casing ends up as a planter, old oil ends up in a combustion engine.

This old canoe ended up as a planter, and this old drain pipe will contain some sorts of salad soon. A beautiful last resort.

Creativity for some upcycling!

The challenge is to reuse an old product and give it a better life. A more valuable life. More value – yes, it feels like you are god. You have to be creative, think out-of-the-box. It has nothing to do with money, in contrary.
Here under a simple example from Bocas del Toro. The 10 dollar for a good dust can has already been given away, so what to do? From a simple plastic oil canister, you can make two of these dust cans.  This is real upcycling!

An old throw away can is upcycled to a broom dust can.

And ladies, here is a movie with a bunch of examples to upcycle your old dresses to fresh one-of-a-kind designs you can show off with.