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Upcycling: A Smattering of Ideas for a Circular Economy

December 2021

Upcycling is booming. Officially known as “surcyclage” in proper French (not the most inspiring of names), upcycling means recycling used materials or products by turning them into new materials or products. The new products have to be of superior quality or usefulness. That’s where the word “up” comes in: recycling to give something a higher value. Today Back Market is going to tell you about 4 exciting upcycling projects!

La Vie est Belt

A French company specializing in belts, bow ties and keychains, La Vie est Belt uses used bicycle tires as their raw material. The icing on the belt is that their products are made by people with disabilities. Motivated by the mind-blowing realization that, on the one hand, Europe burns over 10 million bicycle tires every year, and, on the other, nearly 20% of all French people with disabilities are unemployed, the founders of La Vie est Belt decided to try killing two birds with one stone. They provide jobs to a struggling segment of the population, and upcycle an undervalued waste product into raw material for creating fashion accessories! It’s a great example of a unique, effective circular economy!

Les Récupérables

Have you heard of fast fashion? Say goodbye to twice-yearly seasonal collections. Now we’re subjected to new collections at the insane rate of once a month, if not once a week. This means that every year 700,000 tons of clothing, linens and shoes are put on the market in France.
The French clothing brand Les Récupérables got into upcycling based on one simple idea: the world is already full of textile materials. Between old clothes, household linens, curtains, tablecloths, and sheets, there’s a sea of fabric out there that nobody wants anymore. Les Récupérables decided to produce a line of clothing using this recyclable manna. When the company salvages these materials, it’s stockpiling its main resource and can avoid putting new fabric on the market. Les Récupérables repurposes textile waste, a real environmental problem. Although most of us don’t realize it, the fashion industry creates a huge amount of pollution, second only to the oil industry. Every year it uses pesticides to optimize cotton yields, billions of liters of water to manufacture clothing, and thousands of barrels of oil to produce polyester.

Plane Industries

This designer furniture company from England has been using materials from the aviation industry since 2012. Plane Industries has also launched a line of travel bags and accessories made of fabric salvaged from scrapped airplanes. It’s perfect for making sturdy, solid, long-lasting products, and they’re handmade! As a bonus, Fallen Furniture includes the fabric’s flight history with each bag or accessory. This means you’ll know how many kilometers your trendy bag traveled before it met you, as well as its top speeds and record heights.


Let’s stay in England, where the brand Pentatonic is making designer furniture. By upcycling? Yes, sir. Pentatonic focuses on the most polluting waste from our everyday lives: plastic bottles, cigarette butts, DVDs, smartphones, coffee capsules, etc. Sound familiar?
Pentatonic salvages these kinds of products that aren’t really biodegradable, as well as plastic from the ocean, and makes furniture like chairs, tables and even dishes. And not only that, they also give a cool, modern twist to these repurposed objects. Pentatonic also goes one step further, producing spare parts so that their furniture is easy to repair and lasts even longer! Generating durable designs as part of an infinite repurposing movement… Not bad, England!

It makes you think, doesn’t it? Do these four examples of original, dynamic, high-performance upcycling give you some ideas for upcycling worn-out stuff in your own environment?


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