Upcycling for profit has become an emerging trend over the past few years, with more and more makers using preloved materials and by-product ingredients to create and innovate across a number of industries.
We explore this new green business trend and how to incorporate it into your business model.
- Reduce & Reuse
- What is Upcycling?
- How to Upcycle for Profit
- What are the Benefits of Upcycle Business?
- Creating a Circular Economy
Reduce & reuse
When most of us think of recycling, we might conjure up the frustrations of which piece of plastic goes in which coloured bin, checking labels, symbols, and signs. In many places, the current recycling models leave much to be desired.
And in a profit-driven society, much of the time and thought put into recycling is not so concerned with space saved in landfill, but with the economic viability of such an endeavour.
What is upcycling?
Upcycling is the act of taking preloved items or materials, in some cases by-products discarded by other industries, and giving them a new lease of life either through modification, or innovation.
Examples of these can be seen across the home renovation space, with many consumers opting to save money by buying sturdy, well-worn pieces of furniture for their longevity, and giving them a refresh by replacing parts or giving them a repaint. Equally, vintage and secondhand car enthusiasts are doing this every day all over the world as a labour of love when they fix up old models.
In short, upcycling isn’t a new concept. However, it’s one that’s seen growing interest over the past decade for a number of reasons. Whether it’s the climate crisis, or economic uncertainty driving a shift towards a more sustainable, ‘make do and mend’ mentality in the face of mass global overconsumption, needless waste, and the rise of neo-capitalism — upcycling isn’t going anywhere.
So, with all this in mind, how does this apply to business?
How to upcycle for profit
The set-up costs for starting a business can be intimidating and unattainable for some. So, besides the more obvious benefit of creating a more sustainable business model, from a financial perspective, starting an upcycling business is more affordable, too.
However, doing so arguably requires more creativity, as well as an eye for potential. Whether you’re shopping upcycling supplies and materials from a wholesale marketplace like CREOATE, or scoping out flea markets, antique stores, second hand or charity shops for the diamonds in the rough you plan to restore, reinvent and sell — product sourcing here is bound to be more time-consuming than for a standard business. So, be sure to account for this extra time, as well as any experimental creative planning and design work in your profit margins.
Think like an artist as well as an entrepreneur. Artists don’t just charge for the cost of their raw materials and time, but for their ingenuity and unique creative process.
What are the benefits of upcycling companies?
- Sustainability: By taking existing products and giving them a new lease of life, you’re creating a circular economy that is inherently sustainable.
- Cost-effectiveness: The cost of the products being sourced second-hand will typically be cheaper than when buying new.
- Accessibility: Lower start-up costs, can start sourcing products for your upcycle business from the get-go without the back and forth of sampling, scoping out manufacturers and factories etc.
- Creativity: Upcycling businesses offer a great opportunity for anyone looking to flex their creativity in a unique way.
Creating a circular economy
The real gems and pioneers in this space are those who reflect on the shortfalls and frustrations of the current mode of operating, and use it to their advantage. We’re lucky to host some of these innovators on CREOATE, where you can shop their fantastic products to stock in your store.
Upcircle makes vegan & cruelty-free skincare products by hand from ingredients discarded by other industries. These ingredients include coffee grounds from local London cafes, date seeds, fruit waters from the juicing industry, and much more. Offering award-winning lotions, cleansing bars, and serums galore — there's something suitable for all skin types with their diverse range of products. The best part? Their glass packaging is recyclable AND refillable! Read our interview with Upcircle co-founder Anna Brightman here.
Paper High is a Fair Trade company that sells handmade leather bags, stationery, homeware and gifting products. Their mission is to design and source good quality ethical and sustainable fair trade products that also make a difference to people's lives by providing them with continued work. Working exclusively with small producers in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, many of their products are made using upcycled materials such as recycled paper, newspapers, recycled aluminium, and even elephant dung!
For a bit of upcycling elegance, look no further than Upcycle With Jing's sustainable jewellery. This independent Finnish brand crafts fashion-forward pieces that start life as recycled PET plastic bottles. Inspired by nature, many of their pieces are a tribute to the delicate beauty of various flowers. With each piece handcrafted to perfection, they are ideal for dressing up, or as a thoughtful gift for a loved one, on Mother’s Day, Women’s Day, a birthday, or a wedding. Each piece is delicate, unique, and kind to the planet.
Sarah Drew creates stunning contemporary eclectic jewellery and art pieces using trinkets and treasures washed up on Cornish shores, and beyond. Using eco-silver and eco-gold alongside everything from sea glass, coloured plastic, washed-up metals, wood, and locally-sourced precious stones, Sarah’s jewellery pieces are truly one-of-a-kind. See her share her journey and tour her workshop on our Instagram below.
The future of the textile industry is here: no waste, no dyes, no chemicals, and no extra water through closed-loop upcycling methods. Hilana design and distribute beautiful and sustainable home textiles, ethically crafted according to the ancient tradition of recycled cotton. Over the past 3 years, they have been able to upcycle more than 5 tons of cotton waste, and saved more than 15 million litres of water.
Paguro founder Yen had always been interested in fashion, but had become disillusioned with what she saw on the high street. She longed for a high street which shared her passion for individuality, quality and sustainability. By chance, Yen came across a designer whilst travelling in South East Asia, whose mission was to create ethical bags and accessories using repurposed and recycled materials. From here, her vision for Paguro came alive. Their mission: to bring together a collection of the world’s finest upcycled products, focusing on quality craftsmanship and contemporary design. Paguro collaborates with producers and designers who share their desire to create positive social and environmental change. Offering stunning contemporary products, made using everything from upcycled rubber, recycled bike chains, wood, and electrical wire, to skateboards.
One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure
Feeling inspired by the amazing upcycling businesses and makers on CREOATE? Register with us today and shop them wholesale today.
If you’re the creative type and are thinking of starting an upcycling business of your own, why not share your unique offering on CREOATE, and reach eco-conscious customers across the UK, Europe and the US? Get your products out there, and sign up now to start selling wholesale with us today.
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