Recycling so yesterday, today we upcycle!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“I take it and make something different from it”

Everything eco, everything green, everywhere sustainability and ideally everything “done-by-yourself”. Our demands at buying products are changing. We wish to consume more conscientious, conserve resources. And more often here there arises the trend of “upcycling”. This is our answer to our jam-packed trash cans.

By upcycling what is considered waste by others is turned into individual treasures and upcyling should, nay must, be seen as a sustainable alternative to throwing something away, and that includes items of packaging waste.

But, to get really down to it, we must stop consuming much less and make more things for ourselves, and that means, more often than not, by way of upcycling. Not a bad choice at all as it not only saves resources but also our money. And, in a time of recession bordering on depression this is very important also.

Our parents, if we are of a certain generation, and our grandparents and their parents upcycled well before the word was ever coined and invented, and they reused everything possible.

Too many so-called eco- or green products often are none of the kind and many recycled products are not made “at home”, in our respective countries, but in China and such like places and why... because labor costs are cheaper there as are the environmental regulations. So much for green, eco, and sustainable.

OK! it is true that none of us can make everything that we may need and want – though the want is something we may have to reconsider also – and especially not always from waste materials by means of reuse, repurposing and upcycling but there is a great deal that we can make that way, and by way of employing natural materials, such as, yes, wood from coppice operations.

In our grandparents' and their parents' time no glass jar that could be given another purpose was ever wasted and the same was true for tin cans and other items. We can do the very same today – again – and all it requires it the correct mindset and attitude and, most of all, imagination. Most of those, however, seen to me missing, having gotten lost, however, today and that, in my opinion, due to the fact that it is being suggested to us that only stuff that has been bought is worth anything.

Today glass jars are, obviously, still with us and so are tin cans and can still be reused and upcycled for the same uses as our grandparents and their parents did. In addition to that we have a multitude of other things, packaging materials mostly, that are made of plastic which also have reuse and upcycling potential if we but have the imagination to see a reuse or a new other use in them, even by means of a little DIY with some other bits and pieces.

In addition to that no piece of cloth or piece of metal and even wood that would have been reused and made into something else would have been discarded by our forebears. I said forebears, as in ancestors, not four bears, but if you happen to have four bears then good luck to you.

OK, I know, I digressed, but a little humor is needed at times.

The patchwork quilt, so highly prized today, was born out of necessity and it was bits of worn out shirts and such that were made into those items of bedding, for that is what they were then and not decorative items. Dusters and cleaning cloths too were conversions from other worn out clothing and such textile items, as were face cloths and towels. Those towels, in those days, often were made from bedsheets that had worn in places and were not the toweling kind of material that we have today.

The Australian Bushmen, the squatters, as the small farmers often were referred to also, had a great knack of making something from nothing and it is amazing what they made out of what everyone else would consider trash. From fence wire over the boxes in which the kero tins came to the kero tins themselves and everything in between.

The same went on also in Europe and America on homestead, farms and the working class homes without exception. Reuse and upcyling, though, as said, the term was not even close to be known then, was the order of the day for all, though in most cases born out of necessity rather than choice.

However, we can make today, even if we can afford to buy things, the conscientious and conscious decision to reuse and upcycle rather than to discard and to buy new, for the sake of our wallets, our happiness and the Planet. So, let's go and do it.

© 2016