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Upcycling vs Recycling: What’s the Difference?

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    Posted on 25th October 2022 by Hintons

    Environmental awareness is booming and it can often be a challenge to keep up with the growing eco-friendly terminology. For example, the terms upcycling and recycling are often used interchangeably in the discussion of waste management solutions. However, the two processes vary hugely, and understanding their differences is a key way to improve sustainability in our homes. The team at Hinton’s waste is here to offer a guide to both, as well as some creative ideas to introduce to your household.

    Upcycling vs recycling

    What is Recycling?

    Recycling is an industrial process that involves sorting waste materials by type and destroying them to create a brand new item. Some materials are 100% recyclable, whereas others have to be combined with fresh materials to form a new product. On average, the combined households of the UK contribute 31 million tons of waste to landfill each year. Not only does this add to the ever growing pile of rubbish at landfill sites, but it pollutes the environment and releases greenhouse gases. Recycling is a simple way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the environmental impact of these sites.

    Creative Recycling Ideas

    Large amounts of recyclable materials should be sent to a waste disposal facility to recycle for you, however here are some small ideas you can implement around your home to reduce your waste:

    • Use your coffee grounds and food waste as plant fertiliser.
    • Old cardboard, toilet rolls and packaging materials are perfect for kids’ crafts!
    • Discarded wine corks can act as a great barbecue kindling.

    What is Upcycling?

    Upcycling takes materials at the end of their life span and repurposes them. It’s a movement that’s exploding; if you scour Instagram or Pinterest, you can find numerous posts detailing the top upcycling exploits. A commonly upcycled object is furniture; many choose to comb through charity shops to find discarded pieces to update and breathe new life into. It’s being lauded as an eco-friendly way to furnish your home whilst minimising landfill waste. 

    The rising popularity of upcycling shows an important shift in consumer attitudes; we are now moving away from unsustainable systems like fast fashion and taking steps towards a more sustainable society.

    Creative Upcycling Ideas

    • Use discarded pallets to create a new outdoor furniture set.
    • Customise old fabrics and clothes to create new outfits. The textile industry contributes 10,000 items of clothing to landfill every 5 minutes, so reworking old outfits to be on trend is a much more sustainable choice.
    • Update and modernise dated furniture instead of buying new pieces.
    • Create lanterns out of old bottles and jars.
    • Use scrap tools and bike chains to make unique pieces of jewellery.

    Comparing Upcycling and Recycling

    Recycling Upcycling
    Contributes towards a circular economy      ✅      ✅
    Diminishes environmental impact by reducing amount taken from it      ✅      ✅
    Prevents landfill waste      ✅      ✅
    Destroys waste product to create something new      ✅      ❌
    Employs a creative process to update or form a new product      ❌      ✅
    Minimal energy used as waste is upgraded rather than broken down      ❌      ✅
    Uplifts economy by extracting true value from raw materials      ❌      ✅


    Hinton’s Waste are experts in the waste disposal industry, having served homes and businesses across Croydon, London and Surrey for over a decade. We pride ourselves on our green credentials, recycling over 90% of our customer’s waste to minimise environmental impact. To learn more about our range of skip hire services or to book a waste collection, contact our friendly team today!


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