The premise of upcycling is that it takes something generally in the physical sense, and repurposes it by creating an object of the same or of higher value than the original. For example, a material like glass can be upcycled and made into something else since it doesn’t degrade throughout the recycling process. What many people forget is that there is also something called downcycling, where something is repurposed but is instead made into something of lower value than the original object (i.e. paper products).
With downcycling (or recycling), the object will keep morphing into different objects with different uses and different forms, until it’s too weak to be repurposed again and will finally be declared as waste. The system here is also linear. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since most objects have their heaviest impact on the environment at the materials extraction and production stage. That is, when the object’s ingredients are still in their most raw form being prepared for manufacture or during manufacture.
The typical consumer doesn’t think about the production process, because truth be told that’s none of their business and they don’t care. The typical consumer cares about the value of the brand they’re buying from– what the brand brings them, and how will it make them a happier human being? The message at face value and what subconsciously clicks with our desires is what we buy from.
So what does all this have to do with repurposing? Repurposing is a much better method to go than repurchasing and redoing all that was done to bring the object into fruition in the first place. However, many of us don’t know that because again, we were never taught to think about it, so essentially it becomes none of our business as consumers, so most of us just continue buying things that are made with virgin materials. It’s not so much a business’ fault for not “being green” but more so our own for not pushing sustainability as a priority.