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What is Upcycling?
Upcycling, a word you hear everywhere these days. On the telly, the radio and if you check out the magazine shelves in your local supermarket, you will find half a dozen home and style publications that will have at least one upcycling project amongst their pages. But what is upcycling?
Well firstly, it’s not to be confused with re-cycling, although the two are similar. The definition of recycling is “The process of extracting useful materials from one product and then using it to make something else”.
Upcycling, is taking something unwanted or unused and turning it into something usable. For example, this could be repainting an old bit of furniture to give it a new lease of life or taking a pair of old wellington boots and turning them into flower planters. Not quite re-cycling, but, you could say, that upcycling is a form of re-cycling.
Where do I start?
One of the many good things about upcycling is that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, in fact spending as little as possible is one of the primary drivers, along with it’s a lot of fun.
The first place you want to look when sourcing items to upcycle is in your own home. Check out the loft, the garage and the shed. It may be that you have been looking at your dining table and chairs for a while and trying to deciding whether to replace them, or your favourite arm-chair is getting a bit thin around the arms and could do with a re-cover. These all qualify as potential upcycling projects. Family and friends are a good source of things to upcycle. But you will have to learn to say no. When the word spread through my family that I had a new hobby, I filled my shed to the point where I had no room to work on any of the things I had. I did receive some very nice items, as well as some that I could do nothing with, but didn’t have the heart to say no to. I am far more assertive these days. But if it wasn’t for their generosity, I wouldn’t be doing something I love and enjoy.
Once you have cleared out your house, your friends and you family’s houses, there are the second-hand shops and charity shops where, with a little persistence you will find the object of your inspiration.
What you want to avoid, is spending too much money. The idea is to recycle not make a financial investment. I try to keep to a budget of no more than ten pounds on any one item, whether it is a contemporary item or antique piece. I’m in it for the fun.
There are several online sites that you can also use as sources for new projects such as Freecycle, Froogle, eBay etc.
Upcycling can be applied to pretty much everything. Old boots can become a planter, old baking tings hanging baskets. The recycling of old pallets is on the increase. If you think this is something you would like to do, then your imagination is really the only limit.
Rustic furniture, wine racks and coffee tables are just a few of the things being made from old pallets.
When I first thought about trying to do something with pallets, I thought I was going to have a hard time getting hold of some. I almost bought some broken down pallet wood from eBay I was that desperate. I didn’t really know where to look.
But one Sunday morning, I had to drop the car off at the local tyre centre to change a balding tyre, they couldn’t do it straight away, so I decided to have a walk around the industrial park to pass some time. What I noticed was that quite a few of the industrial units had two or three pallets stacked up next to their bins. They were all closed except for one. A small engineering firm. I’m not usually that brave when it comes to just asking for things, but I went over to the unit and asked the guy, who turned out to be the owner, if the pallets were being thrown away.
He said yes. I asked if could have them. He said yes and asked me if I wanted him to put any others they get to one side. I said yes, not really believing my luck. He was pleased to have someone take them. Since then I have spoken to other business and they have all said yes.
It is also worth asking at your local shops or supermarket. Quite often small businesses have to pay to have their pallets removed, so it’s a win for them as well as you. It is also worth keeping an eye on the free sites because quite often quantities of wood are offered as well as furniture.
What do I need?
All you really need is enthusiasm and imagination. The tools you may need will depend on the type of project you have chosen. If you are working on a piece of furniture and aiming for a shabby chic look, then you will need paint. This can be an old tin you have at the back of the shed, or you can buy specialist furniture paint or chalk paint. Look out for our project orientated articles which will cover more detail in what is required for specific projects.
Summary and Next Steps
I have given you an overview of what we think of as upcycling, some sources for project items and some examples of the many ways things can be upcycled. The next few articles will be discussing some distressing techniques and finding sources of inspiration.
If upcycling is something you might want to try, remember to keep it fun. Don’t get to serious. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Upcycling is about not wasting, but reusing and its worth remembering that if your throwing something away that could be re-used, even if you’re not inspired by it, someone else will be. But whatever you do, keep it simple and keep it fun.
Sources for Projects and Inspiration
Author: Ken May
For more upcycling tips visit – http://www.upcycledandreloved.co.uk
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