Upcycling Goodness

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New Zealand has had a unique yearly programme whereby home owners can leave their “inorganic” trash at the curb to be picked up by the local councils. Unfortunately this programme is coming to an end, but while it existed, a wonderful system of recycling occurred whenever it was on. As you drove through areas that had the collection going, you would see many vans and trucks stopping to pick through the offerings, gleaning anything of use or that could be on-sold, and saving the ‘junk’ from landfill.

You would be surprised what people throw away: perfectly useable and unbroken dining room chair sets, desks, garden equipment, all manner of household items. I have even seen (and scooped) mid-century furniture merely needing a sand and varnish or reupholstering, as well as terracotta pots, beautiful wicker laundry baskets, classic paintable wooden chairs, wood and mirrored bathroom wall cabinets, and more. Space and a disinclination to be labelled a ‘hoarder’ by my long-suffering neighbours are all that stood between me and an upcycling empire.

upcycled drawers

upcycled crates

I once dreamed of forming a company that had permission of the local councils to round up items that could be refurbished or changed into new forms of useful items or art, selling those pieces that were valuable and donating the rest to refuge and refugee centers. I was heartily distressed at the sheer volume of materials that would never break down going into our (or off-shore countries’) soils and reckoned that it was merely a problem of re-distribution. The same went for food scraps from produce centers – garbage bins full of lettuce leaf, carrot tops, etc that could feed pigs, chickens, and the like if they could only be transported to a new home instead of being binned on the spot.

It is said the planet cannot sustain our rate of growth and consumption much longer. I and many others believe that if we could curb wastage, we could slow the inevitable destruction. Upcycling is one way this can be achieved and I am glad to see the trend burgeoning across the globe.

With the advent of handmade online markets such as Etsy, designers and craftspeople can now save items from landfill and upmarket them for resale, often earning a living doing so. Although it may seem a small drop in the ocean of waste the planet is producing, any start is a good start and as more craftspeople get better made and designed upcycled products to the world, and the trend to buy and use such items grows, we will make headway, surely.

wall hangings from old books and magazines

Elephants from scrap paper (from love peace pionies blog)

vintage linens repurposed

Vintage linens repurposed as window dressing (from rosehip_blog)

I do love the thought that you can make a living doing something that is so good for the planet.  The woman behind dishfunctionaldesigns.blogspot.com has been making unique and beautiful jewellery from antique china, old silverware, and whatever else comes to her stunningly imaginative mind:

jewellery upcycle 1

upcycled silverware

Now if only I could get off my creative yet lazy derriere and get working on the gifted teak deck bench and chairs (a neighbours’ personal inorganics session), the mid-century living room chair, the plywood offcuts into beautiful workstations, etc, I would be adding to this wonderful trend, too!

(*feature image from hearthandmade.co.uk )

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4 thoughts on “Upcycling Goodness

  1. A shame that the program is coming to at end. I think in Australia there are people who collects these things privately and turn them into useful things to sell. Not 100% but I saw them in Better Homes and Gardens. Love your photos !

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  2. I never knew New Zealand had this sort of scheme. Why is it that they’re abandoning it when it’s needed now probably more than ever – and when it sounds like it’s breeding a really healthy and positive culture of upcycling?
    Ps. Love the images you’ve used in this post – I’m itching to get my hands on some of the gorgeous wooden storage boxes shown!

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    1. Hi mymymetrocard! Thank you for your comment – yes, it has been a good scheme and I suspect finances are the reason for dropping it. We are already seeing disconsolate sofas and broken down dressers etc left on the road to rot these days, a real shame. What would be great is if we got freecycle.com really going here. The website is up but there is no promotion and no-one’s ever heard of it. There is a good sense of donating to thrift stores, though.
      Thanks for the compliment on the photos – that’s what this blog is about, lovely images with some words to give them justification for putting them up :O) I love those little boxes too!

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  3. Your article is timely. You’ve shown how we are a throw-away world. And this is why in some locations ski hills and ski runs have been built from mountains of garbage. I do find that a lot of people shop more in second-hand shops including myself. I am reminded too of war-torn poverty- stricken children prowling through massive garbage dumps looking for food or articles to be used. Are there solutions?Those solutions need to be proved economic. Really good article. Thought provoking . Sandra V.

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