Sustainability | Environmental

The Difference Between Reuse And Upcycle

Jan 26, 2022 | Montahah Ali

What is the difference between reuse and upcycling? The difference between reuse and upcycling is that reusing an item is the act of taking an old item and, instead of throwing it away, you find a new use for it. Upcycling is the process of reusing objects or materials to create a product with a higher quality of value. This is done to reduce waste and to get the most use out of the resources we have.

Different products involving these can fall under the same category since they can be considered both. They both have the same purpose, which is to reduce the number of materials and products that end up so quickly in landfills and increase the time and use for these things.

The Advantages of Recycling and Upcycling

Some of the benefits of recycling are:

  • Protects ecosystems and wildlife

Recycling helps reduce the need for extracting new raw materials from the earth. It helps lessen the harmful damage being done to the natural world, such as fewer forests being cut down, rivers diverted, wild animals harmed or displaced, and less pollution of water, soil, and air. It prevents things like plastic and materials from being blown or washed into the rivers and seas, which causes pollution along coastlines and waterways and becomes a problem for sea animals and people. 

  • It reduces the demand for raw materials

Since there is an increasing demand for new things in the world, it has led to more of the poorest and most vulnerable people being displaced from their homes, which is why it is better to recycle existing products than damage a community or land because of searching for new raw materials. 

  • Saving energy 

Making new products out of recycled materials uses less energy than making them from new materials. 

  • It is cheaper than waste collection and disposal

It is cheaper to dispose of recycled waste than general refuse, so this means that the more you recycle, the less you put in the bin, which is good for households, businesses and local public services.

Some of the benefits of upcycling are:

  • It encourages innovation and creativity

This allows people to think of new and creative ways to reuse their products in a useful way, and because it's something they make that they will be using, it gives them the inspiration to make it look unique to the style they want it in. 

  • Conserves the environment

By upcycling materials, it reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Many materials contain harmful chemicals that can contaminate the soil and cause soil degradation. They can then find their way to water sources and contaminate the water, causing water pollution that will be dangerous for animals, plants, and people.

  • This reduces the cost of production

Reusing waste material to build different products means that every bit of extra material that would have been thrown away will now be used, which reduces the costs for the business. 

  • Supporting local industries 

The use of upcycling helps support local businesses since some of these businesses rely on waste materials for their products to be made. Using this method of waste management helps contribute to the survival and growth of a business like this.

Recycling and upcycling fashion.

Since there are many benefits that come with recycling and upcycling, it has gained a good position in the fashion market and industry. As recycling and sustainability have become a big part of the world and society, people have become more aware of the impact and have been trying to incorporate it into their daily lives, which is why it has caught the attention of the fashion industry. Many innovative and creative designers are able to incorporate different recycled materials into their work, and this is helping build the awareness of recycling and upcycling products.

Some of the reasons businesses recycle and upcycle clothing items are because:

  • It is an effective way to gain customers

By offering customers some sort of free service, such as asking customers for unwanted clothing and offering free shipping. It helps attract new customers to the business and, most likely, offering beneficial things like that to the customers helps build that relationship and loyalty with the brand, which makes them stay as customers and shop at their business again. 

  • Rescale creates a new revenue stream 

Since businesses are reusing and recycling existing clothing items, they are able to double their revenue since they are not spending money on new materials to manufacture new products. which allows businesses to create streams of revenue.

  • Seek out the professionals

By having so many brands, becoming experts in the recycling and upcycling market allows smaller brands to have access to new information and guidance. 

These are just some of the reasons why businesses use this method, but the main goal is for them to reuse materials that get thrown out even though they are in good condition. 

Some brands that recycle and upcycle their clothes are:

Recycling vs Upcycling vs Downcycling 


Converts a material into something roughly of the same value as it was originally. True recycling is when a material is put back into the same life cycle. True recycling processes the material back into the same product. A piece of material can be processed down to its original form, which can then be used to recreate the same product that it was made for.


Converts a material into something of greater value than it originally was. For example, taking pieces and scraps of cloth and transforming them into something new or a high-quality bag. They help add value to the products since these pieces of scrap would have been recycled into lower grade plastic. It is more beneficial than the material ending up in a landfill. 


Converts a material into something of less value than it was originally. Recycled material into a lower quality substance, which is then used to create a lower grade product. Materials that are hard to recycle are often downcycled instead, such as paper and plastic. 

Recycling and upcycling ideas 

Here are some recycling and upcycling ideas:

  • A Mason jar chandelier 

  • Candles made from coffee grounds

  • Rope covered can be used to hold stationary

  • Hidden piggy bank books

  • Paper beads 

  • T-shirt pom poms

  • Candle in a mint tray

  • Denim rug

  • Knitted plastic bag

  • Nightlight made from a wine bottle

Some upcycled products made by clothing brands

  • Girl Of The Earth - make tops out of vintage materials

  • JJ VINTAGE - make tops, dresses and tanks out of upcycled fabrics and scraps 

  • Selina Sanders - make blouses out of upcycled vintage tea towels 

  • Pentimento - make shirts using pre-existing textiles, from deadstock fabrics also using vintage buttons and accessories.

  • 3 Women - use curated vintage fabrics, to make their clothing items resulting in one-of-a-kind pieces.

  • Psychic Outlaw - dresses made out of vintage upcycled textiles that can be commissioned using materials sourced by customers.

All these brands have similar ways of producing their products, by using scrap materials and fabric or using vintage fabrics to make their unique products.


In conclusion, the purpose of reusing, upcycling, and recycling all have the same purpose of reducing the number of materials and products that end up so quickly in landfills and reducing the impact that these materials have on the environment. 

We hope this blog has helped you gain a better understanding of the difference between reuse and upcycling!

In the meantime, why not read this blog on Top Tips On How To Buy And Source Ethical Gemstones?

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