How to Know if You’re Upcycling or Recycling

bottle cycleRecycling has been around for ages, but upcycling is sort of a new term. It seems like “going green” went from just being a trend, to being an actual way of life. Sustainability has become more than just an environmental issue. Now, people are even turning to environmentally friendly habits in their health.

We started wondering about the real meaning of upcycling here at Morrocco Method, especially after starting our Upcycle Purpose Project, Chopstick Connie. If upcycling and recycling are both about reuse, then what’s the difference between them? Well, we did a little digging to figure that out.

What is Recycling?

Hands with Recycling Sign on Grass

With recycling, the idea is to turn a used item back into a reusable material. Plastic bottles, for example, can be combined and melted down into plastic again. From here, this plastic can be made into toys or even the lining of a jacket. Recycling saves resources, reduces waste, and helps minimize the overall cost of making new materials.

What is Upcycling?

Alternative gardening

Upcycling is a little different. The idea of upcycling is about creative reuse. Upcycling aims to make an object reusable, but the difference is that it doesn’t downgrade the value of the material. In fact, the upcycling purpose is to make the original object better. Upcycling has all the elements of recycling; it reduces waste, energy costs and pollution. The great part of upcycling though, is that it goes a step further to move resources back up the supply chain.

Recycling vs. Upcycling with a Plastic Bottle

upcycle-infographic13Let’s use the plastic bottle to explain the recycling and upcycling difference one step further. When a plastic bottle is recycled, it’s turned back into reusable plastic. This is great for a lot of reasons; it keeps these bottles out of landfills, it takes less energy than making new plastic, and it extends the life span of this material.

On the other hand, it’s not a perfect solution. Some recycled plastic bottles can’t just be made into containers again. There’s a risk of ingesting anything that may have previously soaked into the plastic. These plastic bottles can be turned back into material to be used for something like carpet, but it’s still just being remade into more plastic that eventually becomes trash.

Upcycling a plastic bottle doesn’t JUST make it into something else, it makes it into something better. By taking plastic bottles and connecting them around a wooden frame, you could create a greenhouse. You could also upcycle a plastic bottle by cutting it and shrinking it with heat to make a bracelet. Upcycling of plastic bottles has more than all the awesome elements of recycling. It aims to make a plastic bottle into something even better.

Think Before You Throw it Out!

Earth and litter concept on white backgroundOkay, we know not EVERYONE is born to be crafty, and not ALL materials are meant to be upcycled. Realistically, not everything we use can even be recycled. The goal is to try and think about your “trash” before just throwing it away. Both recycling and upcycling are a huge help in controlling waste management for our environment. What’s really important is to consider whether or not what you discard can be recycled into more material or made into something better. After all, we’ve only got one earth, and we’re all in this together.


Give your “garbage” a second thought before it’s tossed! Find out how you can help fight deforestation with Morrocco Method and Chopstick Connie, and head to MM’s Pinterest page for more awesome upcycling ideas!

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