Last edited 01 Oct 2020


This greenhouse project at the Edderton Primary School in the Scottish Highlands, was constructed from a timber frame, with wall panels made from empty plastic drinks bottles.

Upcycling is the creative reuse of existing materials to form something new. This technique often preserves some of the qualities or characteristics of the original materials. It is sometimes associated with social enterprises or do-it-yourself activities in communities.

Upcycling projects vary significantly in complexity and variety of materials. Unlike recycling, upcycling does not break the product down to its raw materials for repurposing. Instead, it transforms the existing materials into something else, ideally improving their appearance and purpose as a result of the process. While the overall improvement may be subjective, this idea of improvement is the “up” aspect of upcycling. Sometimes materials can be taken from a low-value use and upcycled to a higher value use.

In terms of buildings and construction, upcycling can be used to revitalise existing buildings that might otherwise be targeted for demolition. If the fundamental foundations, and other key elements of the buildings are sound, then they may be suitable for upcycling.

The benefits of upcycling buildings can include:

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