Forget about recycling. Upcycling can be the next trend to create new things from old ones and at the same time save more energy.
Perhaps everyone knows the recycling idea, usually related to the original composition, of breaking down certain materials into new ones, such as paper becoming recycled paper or aluminum becoming ingots. Probably. However, the process does not always work for some purpose. More products are eventually landfilled, even if they are used properly and can often be used independently. That’s why young Hong Kong product designers are starting a new way of thinking that turns disposable materials and objects into useful, perhaps even a little surprising.
Designers: Kevin, Cheung Wai Chun
Based in Hong Kong, Kevin Cheung describes himself as an “upcycling product designer” and distances himself from the more general concept of recycling. In fact, he labels recycling “downcycling” because of the way the process breaks down the material rather than using it as is. While still a big step forward in terms of sustainability, Cheung tells the South China Morning Post that the entire process still consumes a lot of water and energy in the long run.
Upcycling, in contrast, actually uses the properties of the material and incorporates it into new products. For example, the felt carpet left over at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center can be a protective pouch for laptops and comfortable slippers. A coffee bean bag made of durable jute dough can be turned into a tote bag that conveys your love for drinks around the world.
You might expect Cheung to use the material on a regular basis looking for a waste disposal site or dump, but that doesn’t really serve its purpose. Reusing garbage from these sources actually takes more time and runs out of water. This is what upcycling is trying to avoid. Instead, designers have direct access to the source of these throwable objects, such as companies and stores that don’t rethink what they throw out. Cheung’s first upcycling product, Boombottle, uses PET bottles from the clinic.
However, there are some human factors involved in promoting Kevin Cheung’s upcycling as well as its environmental benefits. Wallpapers that evoke memories or come from other countries can be turned into wallets that come with you wherever you go. Jeans become a smartphone case that not only gives cold things a warm and tactile feel, but also fades in a unique way over time. Each object is not just a product, but a book that tells the story of the person who encountered it.