Andy Tran

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What is Upcycling?

Upcycling is modifying materials or products to give them new value. It can be giving a second life to something that would have been considered waste otherwise or repurposing old materials into something completely new. Upcycling extends the object’s life, keeps it out of landfills, and adds value to it.


Different Examples of Upcycling


Fashion Upcycling

Textiles use a huge amount of resources such as energy water and chemicals, so producing new clothing harms our environment.

Upcycling fashion is taking old/ unwanted clothing and resewing it into new items of clothing. It can also involve other recycled materials such as plastic, old fishing nets or even old parachutes! This reduces the need to go out and buy new clothing, saving both money and resources.

Some ideas for fashion upcycling at home could be; using old socks and turning them into toddler leggings, turning an old jumper into a handbag and refashioning old shirts into skirts or shorts.


Furniture Upcycling

Furniture upcycling is using old products and turning them into new pieces of furniture. It can also be taking old unused furniture and repairing and redecorating them using available materials and tools.

Creativity comes into play here, some ideas could be: using old ladders as plant holders or chest of drawers into a television stand or an old crib into a bench. The sky is the limit!

You can also jazz up your new furniture with a nice new coat of paint, or decorate with some old fabrics.


Technology Upcycling


At Borrow Don’t Buy, we regularly upcycle different kinds of tech. We are given old household electronics all the time which may only need a couple of new parts to be working as new!

Get Everyone Online

Part of the GEO (get everyone online) scheme is taking old laptops and tablets and giving them a new life. The team thoroughly inspect and clean the laptops, upgrade them with new parts when needed, and install new software to make them good as new!

Find out more here: Get Everyone Online – Borrow Don’t Buy Plymouth (


Why Upcycling?


Most of us have old furniture in our attics or clothes that we no longer have use for. Upcycling them can mean you have a fun new project to do with the kids or with friends and can also save you some cash, all while helping save our planet!


Why not Recycling?


Although recycling is better for the environment than landfill, reusing and upcycling is more prefered. The reason is that less energy and resources are needed for upcycling. As seen in the diagram below, ‘preparing for reuse’ is higher up on the hierarchy of waste, as set out by the Waste Framework Directive. This is because of all the water, energy and transportation which are needed to recycle an item.

Waste Hierarchy

Click to learn more about the waste hierarchy



How to Get Started?


Making a plan is the best way to get started, figure out which tools and products you might need and set aside the right amount of time to get it done.

If you’re not sure about how to repair or repurpose items, check out one of our repair cafés, where you can meet our awesome team of volunteers who can help you get started and teach you what you need to know.


Learn more about the repair café here: Repair Café – Borrow Don’t Buy Plymouth (


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