Over recent years recycling has become commonplace for people right across the UK, with steady progress towards meeting a 2020 target of seeing half of all UK household waste recycled. It isn’t just at home where many of us have embraced the need to ‘go green’ and do our bit for the planet either; many workplaces are also highly adept at sending their waste off to recycling.

Yet recycling isn’t the ‘only game in town’. Many households are also coming around to the benefits that can be had from ‘upcycling’ too. While recycling sends waste off to be broken down and reused, upcycling keeps hold of the material and transforms an item that is maybe broken or unused into something better. Whether it’s a lick of paint or a DIY job, this can ensure that things like old tables and chairs don’t go to waste.

Container city
photo credit: Wikipedia.org

This is a serious business too. It is thought that the trend could well account for up to 40% of the UK’s £3 billion a year craft industry. Its popularity – and financial potential – means that businesses should explore ways in which they can upcycle and reap the rewards too. Here’s four ways they can cash in on this trend:

Practical use

There’s no reason why businesses can’t work on their own version of domestic upcycling. Items such as large pallets can easily be given a new lease of life as a coffee table, for instance, saving cash on staff room furniture. It’s not as if this is anything new. For example, transport firms will gladly strip back the paintwork of a plane or train with an Airblast Eurospray blast room to give the vehicle a new lease of life with different branding. Using waste materials to make practical furniture that could benefit the office is a natural extension of that. Upcycling and efficiency could – and should – go hand in hand.

Embrace it as a theme

For some businesses, the materials they use can become a feature and upcycling can be a quirky way to grab attention. Consider Hans Välimäki’s restaurant in Helsinki which uses 334 recycled tins as cutlery holders, bar lights, displays and even chandeliers made up of 21 Heinz tins each.

Heinz Beanz chandelier
photo credit: (c) Willem Heeffer

The creative and imaginative use of such materials can be a talking point and fit into the wider theme for a customer-facing business.

Offer a new side line

Whether it’s jewellery, stationery, furniture or accessories, there’s a market for a whole range of upcycled products. In fact, many customers prefer an item that has been upcycled, with the origins of the material a ‘selling point’ in its own right. As Donna Fenn, of Remade in Britain, told the Telegraph: “We’re bored with all the stuff we can find on the high street, and it’s refreshing to see things that are new in terms of design.”

Doorble - Remade in Britain
photo credit: Remade in Britain

Companies selling such items, therefore, can add upcycled ranges to their range to benefit from the interest in this sector.

Creative challenge for staff

Lastly, why not encourage your staff to come up with their own creative ideas on how to use your waste items? Even if you’re just coming up with accessories for the shelves and desks of your workforce, involving your staff and tapping into their creative side could help foster an even better working environment and involves your employees in the ‘war on waste’.