10 creative upcycling projects

Image: Elvis & Kresse Fire hoses into luxury accessories

Upcycling is nothing new, but it’s been given a new lease of life thanks to growing awareness of environmental issues and consumer demand for more sustainable choices.
This month we bring you a small selection of the creative ways in which waste materials are being upcycled.

1. Single use cups into multi-use cups

Location: Cornwall, UK
When ‘Hugh’s War on Waste’ aired on the BBC in 2015 it raised public awareness of the fact that 0.4% of disposable cups were actually recycled. This led to a number of new recycling initiatives and a focus on reusable rather than disposable cups.
R-cup is a reusable, 100 percent recyclable travel cup. The outer thermal layer is a resin made from used paper cups.

2. Disposable coffee cups into shopping bags

Location: Cumbria, UK

The James Cropper Mill turns 500 million discarded coffee cups into luxury packaging and premium quality paper each year. Selfridges in London is one of their customers. They send their used coffee cups to the mill to be turned into their distinctive yellow shopping bags.

3. Leftover coffee grounds into cups

Location: Berlin, Germany
Kaffeeform cups are made from leftover coffee grounds mixed with renewable raw materials including starch, cellulose, wood, and natural resins. They are reportedly highly durable and dishwasher proof.

4. PVC billboard into school bags

Location: Rustenburg, South Africa
Over 10,000 Repurpose Schoolbags have been given to children in six countries on the African continent. Every bag is fitted with a portable solar panel that turns into a desk lamp providing up to 12 hours of light. Reflective material increases the visibility of children as they walk to school in the early morning. What’s more, each bag is made entirely from PVC billboards.

5. Fire hoses into luxury accessories

Location: Kent, UK
There are certain waste items that you don’t give a second thought to. Fire hoses definitely fall into that category. Elvis & Kresse reclaim decommissioned fire hoses from the London Fire Brigade and make them into luxury accessories. In a decade they have reclaimed over 175 tons of material.

6. Plastic into bricks

Location: South Africa
Ecobrick Exchange facilitates the construction of preschools in underprivileged communities using unrecyclable plastic waste. Plastics usually destined for landfill are compressed into PET plastic bottles to make highly insulating building material that is water-, fire- and even bullet-proof.

7. Fishing nets into fabric

Location: Italy
Econyl® regenerates global nylon waste, by collecting it from landfills and oceans, and turning it back into usable fabric. From discarded fishing nets to old carpets, ECONYL® regenerated nylon is the same as brand new nylon and can be reused again and again.

8. Plastic into roads

Location: Lockerbie, Scotland
MacRebur adds materials from non-recyclable waste plastic destined for landfill or incineration to the asphalt used to make roads. Each 1 km of road laid uses the equivalent of 1.8 million one-time use plastic bags.

9. Truck tarpaulins into bags

Location: Somerset, UK
The appropriately named M-24 company salvage tarpaulin used on the side of lorries and turn them into bags. Even the webbing doesn’t go to waste as they are used to make the handles.

10. Food destined for landfill into hunger relief projects

Location: San Francisco, US
The average restaurant might waste up to 100,000 pounds of food annually, yet 1 in 8 people in the US face hunger. In 2018 DoorDash launched a project using its food delivery logistics technology to connect surplus food with non-profits that help people facing hunger.

If you spot any innovative upcycling projects share it with us on Twitter @BorgOverstrom, Facebook or LinkedIn.


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