What’s Up with Upcycling?

Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling. We’ve heard it time and time again and often use it in our everyday lives. Some things are often easier to do, such as reducing our food waste or our hot water consumption by taking shorter showers. We may recycle our paper and cardboard or even reuse containers, bottles, and boxes. These three actions are implemented in our lives every single day. 

A lot of the time our recyclables are taken through state recycling programs. You may have recycling bins outside your house that a truck picks up every other week. In the case of beverage containers here in Maine, you can go to redemption centers, such as the Old Town Redemption Center, right near the University of Maine on Chester Street! There are lots of redemption centers in and around Orono and Bangor, but why are these centers important? Well, in 2015 Maine legislators passed the “Bottle Bill” program to encourage people in Maine to recycle and help keep our environment clean. Basically, you are charged a deposit on any beverage container when you buy it. The incentive for returning them to the redemption center is that you may get that deposit back in return for recycling your bottles. This program is creating more awareness of the benefits of recycling and reducing waste in your home and in the environment in which we live.

Then there are other glass containers such as the ones that hold jams, pickles, or pasta sauces. These are containers that are not as easily processed and don’t go to redemption centers. That is because they are not considered beverage containers. According to Great Forest Sustainability Solutions, glass containers are not always accepted because they are more difficult to reprocess, they can get contaminated easily, transportation can be expensive and glass shards and fragments can be dangerous to handle (The Glass Recycling Problem). Aluminum cans may also not be recycled because of contamination concerns as well. So, what can we do about containers that are not as easy to recycle? There are actually many ways to incorporate them in our lives that are inventive and fun by upcycling them! Upcycling is the reuse of products, waste material, and recyclables in inventive and fun ways and here are a few ways that you can do it. 

Let’s start with aluminum cans! These cans are used for products such as soups, vegetables, and purees. Often, we just throw these items away either in the trash or a recycling bin, but there are actually a lot more uses that we can get out of these objects. For instance, plant pots can be expensive and some of us don’t have the means of driving to a store and getting them. A simple remedy is to use resources that you already have at home and create your own plant pots! By using aluminum cans, you are saving money and being sustainable all at the same time! How great is that? Simply, take off the lid, clean out the can and start planting! Realistically, you could do this with any recyclable container in your home too. It is easy, simple, and creates a unique and creative look in your home. 

As it was said before, glass containers can be difficult to recycle for various reasons, but that is okay because we can use them for some creative upcycling projects! Have a bouquet of flowers, but no vase? Pasta and pickle jars can be a really amazing decorative substitute for a vase that you may just have around the house. If you want to add more decoration to the jar you can paint it, glue on fun designs from magazines and construction paper, and really make it your own! Jars are also great for plant cuttings, propagations, and are an appealing way to show off the plants in your house or room. Have some extra cardboard cartons from your oat milk or orange juice?  Try making a bird feeder! To create a bird feeder, attach a tray to the bottom of the container and cut out holes along the sides so that the seeds can fall out onto the tray making them available for birds. 

There are so many different possibilities when it comes to upcycling! It can be a really fun activity by yourself, with friends, or with your family. So next time you are not sure what to do with your recycling, think about all the fun crafts you can make out of it. For more information about Maine’s Bottle Bill, redemption centers, and fun upcycling crafts check out some of the resources below and follow us for more updates on our GCI Instagram page!

Extra Resources

6 Fun Ways to Reuse Common Household Items and Reduce Waste

40 Really Smart Ways To Reuse Glass Bottles To Upgrade Your Home

Maine Public Redemption Center Deposits