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Reusing materials discarded in the manufacturing process is a growing force behind a fresh new industry. If you are not up on the green lingo, the way to think of upcycling is that it is like a trendy, even greener version of recycling. Recycling (or downcycling), is the breaking down of something, of lesser quality- a process that consumes energy and upcycling on the other hand, adds value by transforming or reinventing an otherwise disposable items into something of higher quality. It is the ultimate in reuse-and a whole new industry sector is shaping up around it.

History of Upcycling Resurgence in the Business World.

Before the industrial Revolution, when new technologies made it more cost-effective to create new (often nonbiodegradable) things rather than reuse them, upcycling was a fact of life. Henry Ford even practiced an early form of upcycling, using crates car parts were shipped in as vehicle floorboards.

Upcycling’s resurgence in the business world can be traced to the 2002 publication of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, a book (printed on a synthetic paper made from plastic resins and inorganic fillers) by architect-and-chemist duo William McDonough and Michael Braungart proposing the idea that manufacturers were practicing a “cradle-to-grave” production approach, which recycling just wasn’t good enough to counteract. McDonough, who also co-founded McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, a cradle-to-cradle consulting and certification firm, agrees that growing number of companies are prioritizing the benefits of upcycling-and enjoying its business advantages.

The Green Movement in South Africa.

Upcycling has ushered an entirely new wave of entrepreneurial innovation in South Africa. A thousand tons of waste are being saved and reduced and South Africans are becoming increasingly creative with their junk, turning it into things they can flag for a little cash on the side. In South Africa, there are several upcycling enterprises embracing this green business and there is an added benefit of reducing waste and being kind to the environment. Among the enterprises include:

Don Thompson, CEO of The Center of Regenerative Design and Collaborative (CRDC), invented a process that can turn any plastic-dirty or clean in any form-into the very building blocks of sustainable development. The product, EcoArena PRA and Ecoblock are innovative environmentally friendly product which consists of regenerated waste plastic particles combined with a standard sand-cement mixture to produce a highly resistant, durable cement block.

(Ecoblock by CRDC)


Sealand Gear

Mike Schlebach and Jasper Eales came up with the idea of upcycling fabrics from old sails, out -of-date billboards advertisement and camping gear into long-lasting environmental sound bags and accessories.  In its fight against marine pollution through making products from waste, Sealand had been acknowledged with Maker-to-Market award at Redesign Foundation Awards.



Hands of Honour

Hands of Honour is designing innovative early learning products while uplifting the communities and creating employment for marginalised men.

(Angel on wheels-Hands of Honour)


 “Waste not, want not-or turn your waste in cold hard cash.”- Jasmine Stone

Lissa Tatenda Mukandi
Lissa Tatenda Mukandi
Administrator at Beetroot Online Business Magazine for professionals, entrepreneurs and businesses.

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