What is upcycling? And when does it make sense? German 2022 Trend


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Out with the old, in with the old? Sort of? Whether for handicrafts or hammering, get inspiration and start your next project in 2022

What is upcycling? Upcycling is a form of reusing materials ( recycling ). Apparently useless waste products are converted into new materials with the help of upcycling. In contrast to recycling or downcycling, upcycling results in a material upgrading. The process of recycling existing material reduces the need for newly produced raw materials and thus conserves resources .


Upcycling essentials

  • With upcycling you give a disused object a new life cycle.
  • Upcycling makes sense if you have a use for the manufactured product.
  • Upcycling contributes to the protection of resources and thus also to nature and climate protection.

Old, broken or seemingly useless items don’t always have to be thrown away. Many devices can be repaired and one or the other can be made out of riddled jeans or empty canned goods. So before you throw anything in the garbage can, consider whether upcycling might be an option.

Upcycling and Recycling: What’s the Difference?

▶ Upcycling is a form of recycling. The difference between upcycling and recycling lies in the way in which a product is prepared for reuse: In recycling, the products – for example a PET bottle – are broken down into their individual basic components. With upcycling, you can also process the products in order to use parts differently, but there is no industrial process behind it.


With Upcycling, you add value to old products by using them for purposes other than intended.


  • A tealight holder made from an old canning jar
  • A wallet made from an old pair of jeans
  • A pouch made from an old t-shirt or pillowcase


Industrial process in which the raw materials of a product are prepared for recycling.


  • Plastic from PET bottles is used for new PET bottles.
  • Scrap metals are melted and pressed into a new shape.
  • Glass is melted and made into new bottles.

How does upcycling work?

As the name suggests: With upcycling you give a disused object a new life cycle (“cycling”), which in the best case even represents an upgrading of the object (“up”). There are no limits to this. In principle, with every product, item of clothing or device that you no longer have a use for, you can consider whether you can still make something useful out of it.

This is how upcycling works – the shopping bag from the pillowcase

  1. You have a pillowcase that you no longer use. For example because it has a small hole in one place.
  2. Since you like the color of the cover, you decide to sew a shopping bag out of it.
  3. If you search the Internet, you will find sewing patterns and instructions in no time at all.
  4. You start and the new shopping bag is ready.

In case you do not have a sewing machine – and it’s not worth getting one for a shopping bag either. In this case, too, you will find many instructions on the Internet. You can also often use sewing machines in repair cafés. You can find out which repair cafés and repair initiatives have sewing machines on the portal of the Repair Initiatives Network.


Upcycling: advantages and disadvantages

Not every product or material is suitable for reuse. Read some of the pros and cons of upcycling here:

Benefits of Upcycling

  • You save resources.
  • They produce less waste.
  • They contribute to sustainable consumer behavior.
  • You will receive an individual new product – one of a kind.
  • Upcycling promotes creativity.

Disadvantages of Upcycling

  • You could accidentally process harmful substances
  • If you buy a lot of additional products for an upcycling project, it may not be more sustainable than a newly purchased product.
  • Upcycling only makes sense if you can actually use the manufactured product.

When does upcycling make sense?

Not every product is upgraded through upcycling. As a rule, you can use just a few questions to assess whether the product is suitable for upcycling:

  • Do I need the product that I can create from the old product?
    If this is not the case, you can, depending on the product, consider whether you want to give it away as a craft project, sell it, or donate it to an institution that recycles old products.
  • Does the material possibly contain harmful substances?
    Pay attention to the materials used. You can usually find out if a product contains harmful ingredients with the help of an internet search.
  • Can I repair the product without upcycling it and continue using it for its original purpose?
    If you can continue to use the original product for the same purpose after a small repair, upcycling is not necessary. (Unless you want to.)

Be especially careful with electrical appliances before you start repairs yourself. Although electrical devices can often be repaired – and this can be worthwhile even with small electrical devices – you should seek advice from someone who is familiar with electronics.


Repair cafés: workshops for joint repairs

If you want to repair electrical appliances or upcycling products without having a sewing machine, Repaircafés are just the thing for you. Because there experienced hobby craftsmen will help you to repair defective devices or to operate a sewing machine.

Repair cafés usually take place at regular intervals – for example every month. You can then register for an appointment and receive support in repairing your device or implementing your project. If no spare parts are required, repairs are even free of charge.


Why do Germans love Repair cafes? German 2022 Trend

Upcycling and recycling: Frequently asked questions and answers

What is downcycling?

Recycling is sometimes also referred to as downcycling. This is because the materials used usually no longer have the same quality after recycling as they were before. Recycled paper, for example, is often grayer and duller than new paper.

Is upcycling really sustainable?

Upcycling is definitely more sustainable than throwing a product away – provided you have any use for the manufactured product. However, if you need a lot of additional materials to upgrade a product, the upcycling project may be less sustainable. In general, however, upcycling contributes to more conscious and sustainable consumption.

Why should you do upcycling?

In general, it makes sense to use products and devices for as long as possible in order to save resources. Upcycling helps to extend the life cycle of a product or to give it a new life cycle. This contributes to the protection of resources and thus also to nature and climate protection.

Are repair and upcycling the same thing?

No, because a repair does not give an object a new purpose. With upcycling, the product is, so to speak, misused, but made useful again.

7 upcycling ideas that you can try in 2022

1. Household cleaner made from orange peel and vinegar


Forget buying expensive household cleaners which are full of chemicals! One of the best all-purpose, all-purpose cleaners is made from orange peel and vinegar. It also works with other citrus peels!

2. Newsprint bags


Don’t worry about unwanted weekly newspapers in your mailbox, because you can also creatively upcycle them! These collapsible bags made from old newspapers are a clever alternative to plastic bags for fruit and vegetables as well as garbage bags. It works entirely without glue or tape!

3. Smartphone armband made from an old sock


If you listen to music while jogging, cycling or in the gym knows the special armbands for smartphones. The Nike and Adidas smartphone armbands can be very expensive and do not last long. Upcycle and save the money by simply reusing an old or orphaned sock instead. It looks unusual, but it works really well!

In general, old stockings are real upcycling all -rounders, with which many more upcycling ideas can be implemented.

4. Floating wick lamp with corks vegetable oil


With a cork, the lid of a tin and a piece of cotton thread, you can make a candle alternative powered by vegetable oil. This turns every screw jar into a beautiful oil candle, which is also much more environmentally friendly and cheaper than household candles.

5. Shopping bags made from T-shirts


Do you still have your favorite t-shirts from bygone days in your closet? Do you collect in the farthest corners, are no longer dressed, but cannot find their way into the used clothes container? Maybe they are no longer good enough to carry, instead they are suitable as beautiful and practical upcycling shopping bags! All you need is a t-shirt, scissors, and five minutes of your time.

6. Gift bag from old brochures


Instead of wrapping gifts in a complex and expensive way, you can also make these original gift bags from old brochures, catalogs and newspapers.

7. Drinking glasses from bottles


Empty bottles and glasses are piled up in your storage room? Do not throw them away, because they are still extremely useful and can be converted into new things. For example, you can very easily make drinking glasses, vases, lampshades and more from old bottles .
But screw-top jars are also extremely useful in other ways – in this article you will find numerous other ideas for reusing single-use jars!

Upcycling clothes – is it a good thing or should you just throw them away?

There are basically two large selection criteria according to which you can pre-sort:

  1. Is the garment in good condition? That means no stains, no holes, the zippers still work, all the buttons are on, etc. The flaw is that you no longer like it or that it no longer fits or you no longer need the item (e.g. too many t-shirts or it was for an event like a prom or wedding dress).
  2. If there are stains or holes, etc., can they be repaired (or have them repaired) and do you WANT to take on that because you definitely want to keep the garment?
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