Upcycling The Future Of Entrepreneurship?

By the Webmaster Lee Gregory

December 9, 2012 5:24 pm

The inventor has always been the spearhead behind economic trends and  development. If it wasn’t for these creative geniuses then society wouldn’t have any basis for continued growth of its economy. What are human beings suppose to do service themselves to death? You do not have to be a genius to invent a product and distribute it in the markets, all you need is a pile of junk and an imagination. The concept I am referring is called “Upcycling” and it is where one uses an existing item or its discarded components to create a whole new product. Old items are used to build new products whereas recyclable materials are broken down and reused. Examples of the concept have seen its popularity in a 1980’s tv show MacGyver featuring the main character Richard Dean Anderson. Armed with only duct tape and a Swiss army knife to help him solve complex problems. The term was thought of by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things


Individuals who want to become entrepreneurs could benefit from this idea. Money could be saved if one is able to obtain reusable materials at little or no cost. Recork is a recycling center that collects corks from various partners in the wine, hospitality, and retail markets. They grind these wooden corks into foot sole product lines then market them to consumers. A teenager from the West African country of Sierra Leone has been able to recover old electronic devices and take them apart to make new devices. For people who are educated in electronics they could follow the footsteps of Sierra Leone’s Kelvin Doe. Rather than throw all of that unwanted printed office paper, the Japanese are deciding to convert it into usable toilet paper using a special machine.


Self-taught African Teen Wows M.I.T.

To get started in the upcycling process, people must try to tinker and think of different uses for an object. For instance, Chinese newspapers have been made into ballet shoes by designer Colin Tin. Designer Oscar Lhermitte made a bench with 334 newspapers and even built a house, everything from the walls, floors, shingles, and doors were all fabricated from recycled newspaper by Sumer Erek of Cyprus.


Sumer Erek newspaper house


The White Goat, a recycling machine dissolves shredded office paper in water to make toilet paper. The machine has a built in shredded machine and all foreign matter from the paper is removed as it breaking down in the pulper. It takes 30 minutes to make one toilet roll. Each roll is equivalent to 40 sheets of Office Paper and using the machine saves 60 Japanese Cedar Trees annually. Check out the video for more information.

If people want to easily create their own business without the hassle of obtaining the right resources upcycling may be an up and coming trend. It is easy for these individuals to build their inventions on a virtually cheap budget because they are using materials and parts that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Terracycle, is an example of a company that relies on using upcycling to make products to sell and has raised lots of money to donate to various charities. They even have programs where one could get paid to send them hard-to-recycle waste only for it to be made into new items such as backpacks, tote bags, and even park benches. Terracycle’s dedication is also proven by the online game they released called Trash Tycoon which teaches both children and adults about upcycling. The founder of Terracycle, Tom Szaky also released his book Revolution in a Bottle and in it he explains how his company got started. Terracycle and other creative individuals have proven that the possibilities for upcycling are endless and thereby could allow one to create a separate income on a shoestring budget. There are examples of others who used discarded materials for their own uses to make an income.


Alternative Furniture:

Bordbar, a German company has found another use for airplane trolleys; multipurpose movable furniture. All the designer had to do is paint designs before marketing them to consumers. Stephan Bolt of Cologne, Germany redesigned the outer shell of these discarded airplane trolleys and made them for use in homes, offices, retail, restaurants, or anywhere where storage is needed. They can used as movable book shelves and cases  and some of the photos from Bordbar’s business website shown full bottles of wine being stored inside the mobile shelf. A shelf with wheels is a great idea especially if a homeowner or business decides to pack and leave either for travel or start operations elsewhere.





Janet Hamilton, an avid fan of decoration and design came up with the idea of repainting indoor and outdoor furniture. She obtained different types of furniture that has been discarded and gave it a new design. I am pretty sure there are individuals who passed through many neighborhoods and found random furniture,  storage items, and many appliances where if either repaired or altered in a unique way can become re-purposed. Hamilton used her painting skills to do just that and made it into a business venture.



ABC15 out of Phoenix, Arizona filmed a story about Glynise who is an artist working for the local business, Vintage Villas. She retrieves thrown away items and uses her art skills to repaint beautiful illustrations. Examples Glynise shown during the broadcast were actual portraits painted on bathroom scales, an old white table found in a dumpster, and a lamp. If a talented painter or illustrator is able to come across an old dresser or book shelve found right next to a dumpster; redesign its appearance  and sell the item has demonstrated the perfect example of upcycling.

Don’t throw out your old furniture, reuse it!

Building Materials:

Building materials can be made with old cement and unused concrete. Granivations is using granite waste to construct tiles and mold bricks. The recycled granite cladding has the same value and longevity as virgin granite at only 50-60% of the price. A special adhesive developed in Germany is used to bond the broken down particles of granite to form these tiles. It has an advantage over synthetic/artificial stone products. The material has passed LEEDs certification and can be made to develop Back Splashes,Fireplaces, Accent walls, Floors, Bathrooms, Bars and Artistic Applications for the inside of the building and walls, Walkways, Driveways, Patio’s, Flower beds, Pool Surround and Water Features on the outer area. What’s special about Granivations is they even offer their customers the option to design and make their own tiles which will save on installation time.


The Bitublock is a new revolutionary concept in the construction of architectural structures. Civil engineer Dr. John Forth of the School of Engineering formed a building block entirely out of recycled glass, metal slag, sewage sludge, incinerator ash, and pulverized fuel ash from power stations. Bitublocks use up to 100% waste materials including the junk intended for landfills. A sticky substance binds together the mix of waste products before it is compacted in a mold to form a solid block. The block is heat-cured just to oxidizes it thus hardening it like concrete.


Bonded Logic is the creator of the UltraTouch Denim Insulation. It has no Fiberglass itch thereby making it easy to handle and use.  Its insulation made from almost entirely recycled natural denim and cotton fibers have no chemical irritants and require no carcinogenic warning labels compared to other traditional insulation products. There are no harmful airborne particulates which allow avoidance of concerns regarding particulates in the surrounding environment. It has resistance to fungi build up and doesn’t easily corrode and has met the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) highest standards for fire and smoke ratings. The UltraTouch product has a patented process that treats individual fiber with a boron-based fire retardant that is not only superior but stops the growth of fungus and mold.


Consumer Products:

The slate messenger laptop bag fabricated by Metamorphic Gear is handmade from 75% upcycled materials. The product specifications even admits that there are scratches which marks the reincarnated use from previously discarded material. Its a handmade item from Seattle and they donate 1% of every individual sale of the bag is donated to programs dedicated to keeping the world’s oceans clean.


Alchemy goods based in Seattle, Washington uses blown-out inner tubes, old seat belts and advertising billboard vinyl to make bags and wallets. Bike shops in the area are contributing to the recycling of the useless bicycle inner tubes and have fabricated backpacks and other bags as well as belts. They have recycled over 400,000 used tubes and established a recycling program with Trek, Rei, and independent bike shops. All products are sewn by hand in their neighborhood shop and ready for distribution.



LZR Racer suit developed by Speedo became banned in July 2009 and about 18,000 unsold swimsuits were slashed and burned before they were dumped outside its outlets in Manhattan. The company has thought of not only selling them off for a cheap price but also preferred burning the rest of the unsold jumper suits. Speedo donated some clothes to the Charity Handbags and Glad Rags and sold clothes on their e-commerce site in a controlled environment where they determine the price. Orsola de Castro, the founder of From Somewhere, an upmarket men’s and women’s fashion label who make clothes from off-cuts and ‘waste’ received 5,000 of Speedo’s rejected swimsuits. They used the fabric from the Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit and crafted cocktail dresses. When designing the clothes De Castro even turned the Speedo logo upside down, made it into a butterfly and cut it to read: ed. After presenting the dress at a London Fashion Week event, Selfridges ordered some dresses for their spring/summer 2011 catalog and Speedo had placed the dress on its website.



Besides using waste materials, another variant of upcycling is exploring a new use for a preexisting object. People have went as far as even renovated old buildings to be used either as personal residences or restaurants.  All they did was modified parts of an existing structure and remodeled the interior of the building. People have turned old church buildings into luxurious homes. A man in Portugal integrated a stone and material he used to form his own house. Abandoned shipping containers have been a new cheap method of building homes and all over the world people have began to explore their potential.


Old Churches have been remodeled into luxurious homes:


Shipping Containers


Sarah Mazzone, founded the Made in USA challenge in 2011 and it is devoted to finding American made goods that are eco-friendly. Her article listed some upcycled handmade goods that were sold by their creators. The top of an old wine barrel was made into a serving tray or a bird feeder made from the lenses of an old hanging traffic light and a glass insulator. Mazzone notes on how upcycling uses lesser energy to create products and how anyone can upcycle. All one has to do is find a new use for existing items or waste products.


These two bloggers have made and compiled examples of individual people using the upcycling idea and turning it into a work of art. Almost any consumer products could be made and sold if you had the right equipment to launch its assembly. Sustain a Blog has listed some easy upcycled items that even the most non-crafty person can make. They have a picture of a candle made from the collection of the old unburned portions of wax that the person just scraped off. That allowed its inventor to produce a new one without the use of candle making equipment. Another highlight was custom notebooks and journals redecorated and sold to customers.


The slideshow presented by another blogger, Savvysugar listed 200 examples of upcycling projects. There are photos of many useful household items made out of wine bottles, corks, candles, old t-shirts and denim from jeans, paint chips, et cetera. The creators who uploaded a photo and the description of what they made used what most people would think is junk that is impossible to recycle. There are tote bags, earring hangers, candles, door mats, lamps, et cetera all made from things people recycle or toss into a landfill. People have use paint chip labels and made them into notebook covers, a lamp shade, and a design for a table. Savvysugar’s blog post explores the more artsy side to upcycling which should give readers more ideas.


Upcycling Furniture Classes:

There are even classes where teachers would instruct their students to upcycle furniture. Craftsy charges $19.99 to anyone who watches the 14 video lessons and reads the downloadable class materials, including supply lists and techniques for a variety of projects. Ann Marie Auricchio, the instructor teaches faux finishing, distressing and crackling, how to use silver leaf, and sophisticated stencil and tape techniques. Ann Marie teaches student’s how to identify styles and eras of furniture design, and the secrets of determining which items are worthy of upcycling and the types that are better left with no alternation. It is an online course where Ann Marie answers people’s questions in the virtual classroom.


If companies want to save lots of money I suggest they start adopting the new practice of upcycling. People in America, Europe, or any other neo-colonial power (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada) want to run their mouths about these new immigrants stealing their jobs. To the citizens of developed nations, you are forgetting that the natural resources used to manufacture these trendy high-tech gadgets are from these same underdeveloped nations. If Americans were sent overseas in China to work at the manufacturing plants then the natives would not take too kindly to foreigners using their resources to build various marketable products. Without lithium extraction all of your cellphones, Ipads, Smartphones, and various other electronics couldn’t exist unless they privatize the land that has these targeted minerals. Sierra Leone’s Kelvin Doe practically made a full radio station using electronic junk that someone abandoned. That proves that e-waste is not only recyclable but can be made into new gadgets with the right expertise.

Appearing politically correct and benevolent improves the image of American corporations; that is why they must use an indigenous workforce in the area they colonized or hire refugees to be employed inside America. Upcycling and recycling play such a huge role because those natural minerals used in these less developed countries are hard to recycle and thereby must be dumped into a landfill. As the wastes pile up throughout the years, corporations still continue to dig in and mine for these minerals ignoring the fact that they could not only face a shortage, but large amounts of these minerals can be reused again. People who love America so much do not realize that imperialism is expensive, but the privileged in these country enjoy its perks and benefits, they do not want to face its hardships and repercussions. If that’s the case then the economic system in America would not be a permanent war economy. For all you “made in America” advocates your best bet is if you want to manufacture things in your country began cleaning up for an Upcycle revolution.


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