The 3 ‘R’s

recycle-paperWe are a planet with limited resources that are rapidly being used up, everything we design has a built in short lifespan in the hope that we will quickly have to buy another one.

In the past nothing was wasted, most people couldn’t afford to and  there was very little to waste. If you didn’t need something then it was almost guaranteed that someone in your family, street or village did need it.

The 3 ‘R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are something that is taught to every child but Upcycling is a recent term that is gaining popularity and becoming a ‘cool’ thing to do.


At its most basic this is buying and using less of something. Reducing is about lots of little changes that if everyone made would make a huge difference to the resources that our planet use.

For example: making sure you turn off lights and other electrical items when not in use, taking shorter showers, making sure things like the washing machine and dishwasher are full, using re-usable bags rather than getting new plastic ones every time.

Big companies are also trying to reduce the waste that people buy with their food . The Kenco Eco Refill reduces the amount of jars that go out to be recycled or binned.


This is when parts or the item of as a hole is re-used, often for the same use but sometimes as something else, such as when people ‘Upcycle’ or ‘Downcycle’ something but I will talk about that a little later.

Re-using has become popular with the freecycle/freegle communities where people in local areas can advertise items that they no longer need and people (strangers most often) can take it to be re-used as needed.

Re-using also includes: Hand-me downs or clothes and other items, car boot sales, travel mugs, composting, and re-uasble shopping bags rather than getting new bags every time.

We often re-use things without even thinking about it. A broken mug easily becomes a pencil and pen holder.
We often re-use things without even thinking about it. A broken mug easily becomes a pencil and pen holder.



Items are separated into their separate materials and remade into something new using the base material. This is different from Reuse in that energy is used to change the physical properties of the material.

Recycling has come back into ‘Fashion’ with most people being able to recycle everyday waste such as card or tins or glass items from the comfort of their home.

Examples of Recycling: New paper made from old paper, New tins made from old tins, fleece jackets made from plastic bottles and many other places where you might not even realise.

A fabulous firm doing some excellent work is Remarkable Eco Factory who create a wide range of Stationary and other gifts all from recycled items.

Remarkable sample pack
Remarkable sample pack

Upcycling is one of the current trends, reusing something in a way that gives it  ‘more’ value than it previously had but has been going on centuries for many people, this includes things like quilting which often used left over scraps to produce something beautiful.

Downcycling is the opposite of upcycling, where you change items into something less desirable, something with less value.

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