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  1. #1
    Starcrossed Seafarer Aquarelle's Avatar
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    Default Ethics/Science of Upcycling Recyclable Materials

    I wasn't sure whether to put this in this forum or the science and tech one, because it's about nature and science. But anyway.

    Here's something I've been pondering lately. I dig upcycling/repurposing. I love the idea of making something new out of something old, rather than putting the old thing into a landfill or even an incinerator. The dilemma I have is, when the material can be actually recycled, and upcycling involves adding additional components (glue, paint, etc) that might render it unrecyclable in the future, is it better to just recycle it? Let me give you some examples.

    Take tin cans for instance. Metal can be recycled an infinite number of times. So say I have some tin cans that I decide to upcycle into cute flower pots or something, involving painting them and glueing ribbons or other trinkets onto them. In the future, when the upcycled flower pot is at the end of its life, can that can still be recycled, with the paint and stuff on it? I'm thinking paint probably yes, but maybe not ribbon or whatever.

    And another example... this one is from my real life. When I moved into my new house, I found a huge tin of cinnamon sticks in the back of one of my cupboards. Having no idea how old they were, I didn't want to use them in cooking, so I made some Christmas ornaments out of them to sell. But now they have glue and ribbon on them-- should I have just composted them? Or since someone maybe bought them instead of newly-fabricated ornaments, is it a wash?

    I wish I had the training/time/credentials/$ to study this and find out for real, but I'm not a researcher. I tried searching, but Google did not provide. So I'm just curious... what do people think?
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  2. #2
    eh cascadeco's Avatar
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    I mean, for things that you are personally keeping for use yourself, like using cans for flower pots but adding non-recyclable things to them, but perhaps then wanting to rid yourself of it at a later date, the first thing that comes to mind is that you can simply remove the added ribbons/non-recyclable elements, or scrape the glue/paint off, before then recycling the can.

    Seems like that could be done with the sorts of things you are providing examples of -- you can just remove the added things before recycling what can be recycled.

    Is it the issue of, now you have things that aren't recyclable that wouldn't have even entered the picture had you not tried to reuse/repurpose? I mean I still think, assuming it's not major stuff that's being added on and then potentially thrown away later, that it's still a net gain/positive, as it can take a lot more energy/fossil fuels/water and such to make new products; thus you're saving on the energy component by reusing/repurposing imo.
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  3. #3
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    Its not the same thing but this has made me think about the different marketplace apps and social media platforums which allow people to sell things like sports and fitness equipment rather than throwing it in the trash, there are a lot of things which have life left in them, despite the designed obsolescence, throw away culture and all that sort of thing.

    I have seen some truly awful examples of upcycling, on TV programmes dedicated to popularising the trend no less, some nice pieces of furniture destroyed with coast of paint or bad design choices. Its possible to destroy things even if they are being thrown out I think. There are some upcycle choices I never would have thought of though, like leather suites of furniture which got made into boots for instance, I never would have thought of that at all.
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  4. #4
    FRACTALICIOUS phobik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Its not the same thing but this has made me think about the different marketplace apps and social media platforums which allow people to sell things like sports and fitness equipment rather than throwing it in the trash, there are a lot of things which have life left in them, despite the designed obsolescence, throw away culture and all that sort of thing.

    I have seen some truly awful examples of upcycling, on TV programmes dedicated to popularising the trend no less, some nice pieces of furniture destroyed with coast of paint or bad design choices. Its possible to destroy things even if they are being thrown out I think. There are some upcycle choices I never would have thought of though, like leather suites of furniture which got made into boots for instance, I never would have thought of that at all.
    yeah, I'd call that more a futile money grab, more often than not these days seeking attention/viewers than actually minding the up-cycling. The key point is usefulness of reusing something rather than use something new, whether or not that is even measurable or relevant in the grand scheme of things idk; I think it more likely fits into a personal moral until it becomes a societal behavior with significant impact.

    the idea is the main determinant of the best options: a) make useless shit cuz u can b) make useful shit cuz u can/need 3) clean the environment.

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  5. #5
    ƸӜƷ Lotus's Avatar
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    I took a college course on environmental design concepts once and one of our projects was to create hanging chandelier sculptures made mostly from recycled plastic. We learned almost anything can be recycled except for some hazardous stuff like broken glass, batteries, and cleaning agents. We did use glue, but it was mostly at the top to hold it all in place so parts could still be recycled. I however put paint on mine without thinking that it might prohibit the material from being recyclable in the future, but I noticed the acrylic paint I used was easy to scrape off. So perhaps depending on the materials used it could still be cleaned off and recycled again.

    It's an interesting point though. Maybe recyclable friendly material can be an option to assemble it if it's a concern? I'm sure there's some out there.

    Personally I think if it's being recreated into something functional then it should be fine. You can always disassemble it and recycle other parts anyway.
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    Senior Member ceecee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aquarelle View Post
    I wasn't sure whether to put this in this forum or the science and tech one, because it's about nature and science. But anyway.

    Here's something I've been pondering lately. I dig upcycling/repurposing. I love the idea of making something new out of something old, rather than putting the old thing into a landfill or even an incinerator. The dilemma I have is, when the material can be actually recycled, and upcycling involves adding additional components (glue, paint, etc) that might render it unrecyclable in the future, is it better to just recycle it? Let me give you some examples.

    Take tin cans for instance. Metal can be recycled an infinite number of times. So say I have some tin cans that I decide to upcycle into cute flower pots or something, involving painting them and glueing ribbons or other trinkets onto them. In the future, when the upcycled flower pot is at the end of its life, can that can still be recycled, with the paint and stuff on it? I'm thinking paint probably yes, but maybe not ribbon or whatever.

    And another example... this one is from my real life. When I moved into my new house, I found a huge tin of cinnamon sticks in the back of one of my cupboards. Having no idea how old they were, I didn't want to use them in cooking, so I made some Christmas ornaments out of them to sell. But now they have glue and ribbon on them-- should I have just composted them? Or since someone maybe bought them instead of newly-fabricated ornaments, is it a wash?

    I wish I had the training/time/credentials/$ to study this and find out for real, but I'm not a researcher. I tried searching, but Google did not provide. So I'm just curious... what do people think?
    You don't need Google. You need Pinterest.
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  7. #7
    Starcrossed Seafarer Aquarelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceecee View Post
    You don't need Google. You need Pinterest.
    I'm not looking for ideas, I'm looking for facts/research.
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  8. #8
    clever fool Typh0n's Avatar
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    I'm not expert on this, but I'm sure there are books on the subject, knowing stuff takes time anyways, you might be busy but you could take like 20-30 mins a day for yourself just to read up on this from a good source?

    That's what I would do anyways.

    I mean, I realize you have some specific questions regarding the science of it, not particularly ideas, but I don't know if you can find and all mighty database on this stuff that can answer every science question since it is case specific (based on your examples).

    I'm not as into upcycling as you are, but I've become interested in reusing household products lately, we have such an impulse to throw stuff away without even thinking "I could be saving money by not buying something new every time". Plus it gives me as sense of value to put things to use, so I definitely understand the appeal, in additon to it being for the environment.

    Best of luck.

    EDIT: Nevermind I looked at some books on this on amazon and they are all about ideas, and don't seem to touch upon the science of it. I do think this looks like it's more up your alley, but I can't guarantee it's what you're looking for: McGraw-Hill Recycling Handbook, 2nd Edition McGraw-Hill handbooks: Amazon.co.uk: Herbert F. Lund: Books

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