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July 09, 2012, 06:12 PM

Upcycling captures the zeitgeist

By Shirley Kay

Hardy [photo Melanie Porter

Somerset, UK - Lucia van der Post reports in the FT 'How to Spend It', that an increasing number of designers are embracing the upcycling trend. Upcycling takes 'old (and often unwanted items) and turns them into something more than merely functional objects - it transforms them into things of great beauty, thus perfectly resolving the tension between our desire for new, lovely things and our concern about consuming more of the world's diminishing resources.' Even offering 'luxury in our eco-conscious times.'

Upcycling may only now be capturing the zeitgeist but the word was originally coined in an interview of Reiner Pilz (of Pilz GmbH) by Thornton Kay of Salvo in 1994. In a subsequent SalvoNEWS article (a black and white photocopied magazine in those days) Thornton Kay wrote: 'We talked about the impending EU Demolition Waste Streams directive. "Recycling," he said, I call it downcycling. They smash bricks, they smash everything. What we need is upcycling where old products are given more value not less.' At the time he was despairing of the waste of old building materials in German demolition under the name of recycling. "It was a pinky looking aggregate with pieces of handmade brick, old tiles and discernible parts of useful old items mixed with crushed concrete.' 'Is this the future for Europe?'

Kay went on to report that Pilz was committed to being green. Pilz had persuaded joiners working for him to use old rather than new materials by paying them 10% more. There were many examples of upcycling designed by Pilz in the article such as pew steps turned into a pub leaner/drinks table and a bar front made from door panels. Pilz also recognised the 'commercial cache from being green' and said he would be able to charge 10% more than competition, 'until they catch up.' Thornton Kay has also encouraged and promoted the appreciation and awareness of historical crafts and skills and helped reduce the amount of salvageable materials from going to landfill, through the online marketplace for architectural salvage and reclaimed building materials, SalvoWEB.

So now upcycling has taken off among interior designers and, as Lucia van der Post reports in FT 'How To Spend It', has now reached what author Malcolm Gladwell called the 'tipping point' as both they and their customers are more concerned about over-consumption, waste and its impact on the planet. Although one has to be aware of people jumping on the bandwagon, by marketing items as green when they are not, there are many good quality green design items out there, although it is a good idea to check as far as possible how it has been made and its chain of supply. In fact in another recent article 'Not so yummy now' Style magazine reported that yummy mummy's are fed up with faux vintage tack and were now looking for the real thing. They are becoming more discerning and demanding distinctive design and individual pieces that will be talking points. So it is not just about being green.

Lucia van der Post gives examples of the more upmarket designers doing upcycling such as James Plumb and Melanie Porter. However there are some good examples of quality upcycling out there which would be a joy to have in your home in all price ranges. Many architectural salvage yards and vintage shops are selling genuine recrafted old items rather than repro. This is not just happening in the UK either. Restoration Resources, an architectural salvage yard in Boston, tweets a repurposed idea of the week which recently had an industrial cart as a coffee table and a piano repurposed as a desk.

Remember free For Sale or Wanted adverts can be placed on Salvoweb online. On which there is a developing Recraft section.

James Plumb

Melanie Porter

Restoration Resources

Pilz GmbH

Wikipedia: Upcycling
SalvoNEWS: 23rd October 1994 - Page 11

Story Type:  News

ID: 67712

Date Modified: November 06, 2012, 08:56 PM

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