The Future of Up-Cycling

Sustainability and up-cycling efforts should not solely be focused on the consumer. Instead, corporations are, and need to continue marketing ideas for up-cycling efforts of their products after the end of their useful life. In the recent years, there has been a huge push towards corporate responsibility, including energy conservation, fuel conservation via the supply chain, recycling efforts, and the use of more sustainable materials and packaging. Though all are excellent initiatives, the future of this responsibility includes after market up-cycling instructions and suggestions. Environmentally-friendly products are the products of the future, and in order to compete, companies are going to have to adapt to the demand.

In 2001, a company called TerraCycle was founded in the United States and since then has expanded into 20 countries. TerraCycle’s main objective is to up-cycle post-consumer waste in fun ways and provide recycling channels for materials that are not considered recyclable because of high cost. TerraCycle partners with companies like Honest Tea, Timberland, Entemann Little Bites, and Garnier to inform consumers on what to do with their empty packages and how they can up-cycle them on their own. Through TerraCycle’s third party efforts, consumers of these, and many other brand name products are given the proper information on how to successfully and sustainably get rid of their waste. TerraCycle provides an entire page on their website dedicated to DIY (do it yourself) projects to “show off your eco-style” by up-cycling your waste. These projects include a Capri Sun tiny tote, a single drink pouch wallet, a cereal package flower bouquet, tooth paste tube accessory holder, and almost 50 more project suggestions.

Companies can have this same affect by taking it into their own hands and advertising post-market up-cycling ideas to their consumers via social media and their brand website. Pizza boxes for example are non-recyclable due to the grease on the cardboard box. Big name pizza brands should push innovative ways to avoid their boxes from ending up in a landfill at the end of the week. Clothing companies, shoe companies, appliance brands, etc. are all going to see a transfer of responsibility from the consumer to the producer when it comes to the sustainability efforts of the product at hand. Even if up-cycling is not an option, (take soiled napkins for example) the future is going to entail the producer to supply the consumer with options via zero-waste channels. Many companies are dabbling with the idea of creating programs to re-collect items or empty packaging when the consumer is finished with the product, and up-cycle or recycle the materials on their own dime. Though a program as such will raise expenses substantially, it’s a small price to pay for the conservation of our Earth. In the years to come, this will be something consumers look for in a product when shopping and so will be a necessary adjustment for many businesses. Because people are becoming better educated on the subject and more demanding of such corporate responsibility, necessity will prove to be the mother of innovation.

“Recyclable Material [n].” Encyclopedic Dictionary of Landscape and Urban Planning (2010): 799. Web.

“Recycle Everything with TerraCycle®.” TerraCycle. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2017.

One Comment

  1. It would be great to see upcycling used for more than just fripperies… a toothbrush holder accessory? Bouquet holder??? It would be even better to reduce waste at the source; what about a reusable, foldable pizza box? What about making your pizza at home?
    It might be fun to do this stuff with your kids but It’s annoying to have such green wash constantly thrown around as if it was going to make a difference, it really won’t…

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