Just when I thought my letters to Terracycle and Kellogg were a waste of time, I received an e-mail from a social entrepreneur in Belgium. There is a team of artists and social entrepreneurs working on a project called “Upcycle Belgium”. They are exploring ways to build a common upcycling activity in Brussels and seeking some opinions on the subject. It sounds very interesting, read on:
“Our goal is to involve not only waste and industrial companies to the project but mainly gather society in the purpuse with local and national campains and educational program for puclic learning. We know that upcycling is not revolutionary solution but by this way, involving the people in the main process and learn more about social, economical and industrial habits to go green without loosing money, wasting time or feel guilty about the enviroment.”
Upcycling is tricky. One one hand, prolonging the lifecycle of an otherwise trashed object is fantastic because it keeps volume out of landfills. On the other hand, if you upcycle an object to a product that is not robust enough to escape landfills for a significant amount of time — what is the point? Instead of upcycling, why not focus energies on creating products that cannot be thrown away?
So, I tend to think that on a large scale (like Terracycle’s partnership with Kellogg) upcycling is not effective, because Kellogg produces a massive amount of food packaging. Unless Terracycle is able to upcycle all of Kellogg’s food packaging waste into very valuable, robust products — there is just too much packaging! In that case, I think there is more opportunity to redesign food packaging than figure out an efficient plan for upcycling.
What Upcycle Belgium is doing is different — they are not just upcycling, they are trying to start a social movement. They want to education people about the lifecycle of products. From what I understand, they are not trying to mass manufacture new upcycled goods, but take an artisan approach and create new, unique products that last a lifetime.
I’ve always wanted to go to Belgium… who knows… I am going to Europe next month, maybe I should pay Brussels a visit!
It looks gorgeous!