Upcycling is the term given to the practice of reusing old items for new purposes. While the majority of us take pride in the fact that we recycle our papers and plastics, or dispose of our electronics properly, we often miss other opportunities to curb our impact on the landfill.
In 2014 the EPA reported that 534 million tons of construction and demolition (C&D) debris were generated in the United States, an amount more than twice that of municipal solid waste. Of that 534 million tons of debris, demolition represents 90% of this waste. Even when properly disposed, there is often no environmentally friendly way to get rid of C&D waste, meaning the majority of this waste will end up in landfills within our communities in perpetuity.
Our local home improvement stores bombard us with DIY projects that find us renovating different parts of our homes every other weekend. If we are not replacing our front door, we end up replacing our vanity. When we’re not putting in new kitchen cabinets, we are finishing our basement. Over time this generates more C&D waste then one anticipates. Upcycling such items has the dual benefit of not only keeping this debris out of the local landfill, but also if donated to a non-profit organization; individuals can receive a tax deduction for what they value these items to be worth.
Organizations that assist in this form of upcycling undertake what is called deconstruction. The deconstruction process involves strategically removing hardware from items that are being replaced in a home or business, such as a storm door or kitchen cabinet set, so that they can be repurposed for continued use in another property. Such upcycling is conducive to modern design due to the fact that retro or rustic construction is no longer a niche market.
Aside from the environmental benefits upcycling and deconstruction provide several other social benefits. Deconstruction allows households the ability to recoup some of the costs of renovations through the tax benefits of charitable donations.
Purchasing lightly used building materials allow individuals to save money on the costs of home improvement projects.
Finally purchasing from or donating these items to a non-profit organization supports the continued mission of service to the local community. In essence, upcycling allows us to lessen our impact on landfills while simultaneously improving the places in which we live.