Is it Recycled or Upcycled?

By Crispina ffrench

Is it Recycled OR Upcycled?

Are you a textile Recycler or an Upcycler?

When I got started turning wool sweaters from the thrift store into Ragamuffins back in 1986,  the word RECYCLE was shaking off dust and trending. I first heard it when the Massachusetts ‘Bottle Bill’ passed in 1982 resulting in media attention to recycling.  

A few years later, the term ‘Recycled’ fit my making process,  I was a ‘Recycled Clothing Alchemist’ – turning used clothing into marketable products.  It was magical – harvesting mostly unwearable clothing from the waste stream to turn into high-end gorgeous clothing, accessories,  home goods and yes, Ragamuffins

As the years ticked by the very cool idea of turning waste material into something of use, became accepted and people stopped asking me if my product was clean.   Right around this time the word UPCYCLE crossed my radar.  As the practice of reusing textile waste and clothing continued on an upward trajectory Upcycling evolved to differentiate from Recycled.  

When I dug in, this is what I learned:

Recycle means to reuse or make available for reuse, to adapt to a new use, to process materials in order to recover material for human use, the value of recycled material either maintains or diminishes in reuse

Merriam Webster defines Upcycle this way: to recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item : to create an object of greater value from (a discarded object of lesser value)

So today in 2022, I am a textile upcycling alchemist and business coach.  I turn fabric waste into artful utilitarian wares for living.  My materials of choice range from discarded clothing or household textiles to manufacturers’ waste.  Not only do I develop product and art for sale,  I teach like-minded textile-centric entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses that support the planet and their ideal lifestyle.  

If you are a Textile Upcycling Entrepreneur too and you want to build your business, check out The 5 Foundations to Make Money and Grow Impact. 

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