Recycling and upcycling may seem similar, one can get easily confused between the two and even claim them to be the same, but are they? The answer is simply No. Although the two seem similar, there’s one significant difference in their processes. 

By definition, Recycling is when waste is converted into a reusable form. Whereas upcycling is a process in which a discarded material is reutilized, and transformed into a product of higher value than its original status.

Take a look at the following images.

Image 1 is a shoe made out of a plastic bottle, and image 2 is a guitar shelf. 

Can you identify what process is applied in each of the images?

Let us break down the above pictures

The first image has a shoe made out of what looks like a single-use plastic bottle. In this process, the plastic bottles are shredded into flakes, and then after further technical procedures, they are maneuvered into fibers, which can be woven into desirable fabric or product. Therefore, a single-use plastic bottle, unlike the above guitar, is broken down to its entirety and then recycled to create a different product. 

Now the second image. It’s a guitar turned into a beautiful shelf. The instrument is not destroyed to the core and then converted into a new piece of décor. However, it is upcycled.

In other words, upcycling is a fancy term for ‘Best-out-of-waste.’


  • Recycling involves a process of breaking down the discarded object. On the contrary, Upcycling does not break down the material before reusing it; it reutilizes by upgrading the original value of the discarded item. 
  • Both recycling and upcycling results out of one common goal – Reuse, and this approach becomes important when leading a sustainable life.

Therefore, next time when you discard solid wastes, take a moment and think whether there’s a possibility to recycle or upcycle. Blessing the landfill with more unnecessary waste is the last thing we want to do.

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