A beginner’s guide how to create and sell upcycled, recycled and repurposed items

estimated time to read: 9 minutes


Upcycling and recycling and repurposing – what are the differences?

Have you ever tried to upcycle anything? Maybe you have, just without knowing!


If you ever reused some of your old used car tires for charming and colorful garden planters.

Upcycling old car tires for charming and colorful garden planters


Or reused them for other purposes like a tire swing for your kids.


Then you have upcycled, or in fact to be more precise you repurposed the tires, since there are subtle differences between upcycling and repurposing as explained below.


Upcycling, recycling and repurposing are closely related, and these terms are often used interchangeably when it comes to environmental sustainability. They are all about turning old, broken, or futile products into fresh new products that have a new life.


Upcycling could also be called “creative reuse for similar purpose” and describes the process of enhancing a product, but where the functionality remains the same or similar.


For instance, instead of throwing an old boring looking bookshelf in the trash

Instead of throwing an old boring looking bookshelf in the trash and buying a new one in IKEA


and rush to IKEA to buy a new one, with a little paint and customization of the shelve layout the bookshelf can be upcycled to new life.

With a little paint and customization of the shelve layout it could be upcycled to new life


It is upcycling because the usage is still the same or similar. Just in a better-looking bookshelf.


Another example of upcycling is using leftovers from clothing production to make new products – for example by producing other more modern looking clothes.


Recycling is when you add the same value to a material or product as it already had. In other words, it is about keeping a product or material in the cycle it is already in.


Our waste deposit system is a good example. It recycles glass, plastic, and metal typically by melting and then reusing for something completely different. That way it stays in the same cycle over time instead of becoming waste ending up in a dump or landfill, or worse ending up in the oceans not only harming the environment, but also the animals living in the oceans.

Recycling of waste is what happens when you throw your trash in the recycling garbage bin


Realistically, though, these materials can’t be recycled forever. For instance, paper can typically be recycled up to 6 times and plastic is limited to 7-9 cycles. Therefore, some may argue that the reuse of deposit products instead constitutes downcycling, which is the last form of recycling. Downcycling occurs when a product is transformed into another product that has a lower value than the product already had. This may sound like a bad solution. But in fact, it is not (at least not always). It is not always possible to upcycle and recycle products, and when it is not, it is better to downcycle than to let the material go to waste.


Repurposing could also be called “creative reuse for other purpose” and describes the process by which products are treated or reprocessed to create something of greater value than the products originally had. An example of repurposing is the above example of reusing old car tires to make garden planters or a swing for the kids.


Another example could be like mentioned above, to reuse leftovers from clothing production to make new products – but this time instead of reusing the old clothes to produce other nicer looking clothes it is repurposed for example into a neat shopping bag.

Cool denim bag made of old jeans


So, all though there are subtle differences between upcycling and repurposing they serve the same purpose to refine and to reuse in order to make something better, instead of throwing away and buying new stuff.


What are the benefits of upcycling, recycling and repurposing?

There are many benefits. Most important ones are environmental sustainability and economics. The benefits are countless but to mention a few:

• Reducing harmful greenhouse gases
• Keeping our Earth clean and beautiful
• Conserving natural resources
• Saving money and energy
• Achieving the satisfaction of getting something creative and unique in your home


The aim of upcycling, recycling and repurposing is to reuse waste products thus avoid having to use new resources. In other words, it is about making the most of the leftovers you have and giving new life to waste and scraps.


What products can be upcycled, recycled and repurposed?

Practically anything can be reused. Only your imagination sets the limit.
Popular items to upcycle and repurpose are clothes, shoes, furniture, jewelry and home décor.


If you intend to sell your creations of course you probably need to put more effort into it than just removing the label from an old wine bottle and then calling it a flower vase.


Depending on what you want to create it may require:

• Some exercise
• A bit more time
• Right choices
• Availability of the materials you want to reuse
• What the end result should be


It requires some skill and persistence to create something really useful you can sell, but don’t let that scare you away from starting the adventure.


Pricing your upcycled, recycled and repurposed items

Setting the right price for something unique you have created can be difficult if there is nothing quite like it for sale elsewhere which you can compare your product to. So, the “right price” can be quite subjective.


You definitely do not want to be underpaid for your effort. A part from your valuable time spent, you probably have several expenses.


We suggest you try to estimate:

• The cost of the required input materials
• Your labor cost
• The shipping cost
• The packaging cost
• The cost for handling customer complaints and returns
• The cost of transaction charges
• The cost of commission to the marketplace where you list your items for sale


As well as any other potential expenses you can think of.


Then multiply those estimated expenses by 4, or at least by 3 to also leave enough profits for you making it fun to create and sell your items.


You probably do not want to offer free shipping to all destinations you intend to sell to, so it can be a good idea to incorporate some of the shipping costs into the product price. Setting the shipping cost too high tend to scare off some potential customers.


Can you actually make money by upcycling, recycling and repurposing?

If you are creative and have an eye for turning trash into treasure, then definitely yes. Starting your adventure here at upXycled.com is easier than you think 😊
Selling upcycled, recycled and repurposed creations is no different than selling any other items. It is all about being creative and thinking outside the box and then of course letting yourself be inspired by other people’s creations.


For inspiration you can search the Internet, Facebook groups (there are many groups like Repurpose + Upcycle = Inspiration enthusiastically dedicated to upcycling and repurposing), or you can look at other online marketplaces like Etsy also selling these kinds of items.


Of course, since our new marketplace here at upXycled.com is focusing and specializing only on selling these kinds of reused items, we would love if you would list your creations for sale here with us 😉


To understand how you can apply to become one of our valued sellers please read Become a Seller.


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