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What is Upcycling? - EFFYDESK Blog Banner

What is Upcycling?

Are you looking for a new way to be environmentally sustainable at work and at home? Try upcycling

The word “upcycle'' by definition, means “to recycle something in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item.” This means taking discarded objects of lesser quality and creating a product that has value and purpose again. 

But wait—isn’t that the same as recycling? Not necessarily! Although both recycling and upcycling help to reduce waste and divert items from ending up in a landfill, the main difference is how the discarded materials are treated. With recycling, waste materials like paper, metal, or plastic are taken to a recycling centre, broken down, and remanufactured into something new. Upcycling means sorting, refreshing and reusing these materials in a different way, and can be done either at home or at an industrial level. 

Let’s say you opened a can of beans to prepare for dinner. Recycling the can means popping it in the recycling bin, where it gets taken to a recycling facility to be shredded, melted down and re-molded into something else (a soda can, maybe?). Upcycling could mean punching holes in the can, painting it, and reusing it as a candle holder!

Upcycled Candle Holder - What is Upcycling? | EFFYDESK Blog

Why Upcycle? 

The better question would be “why NOT upcycle?” Upcycling and supporting businesses that upcycle come with a number of eco-friendly, sustainable results.


  • Reduces raw material consumption by making use of materials that have already been “used.” 
  • Extends the life of the original item by giving it a second life as a different item.
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions from recycling centres. Upcycling skips the remanufacturing step as the item is simply being repurposed.
  • Reduces waste, especially in larger items that can’t be recycled traditionally. With upcycling and a little makeover, items are given a new life.
  • Contributes to a circular economy. Since these items aren’t going into landfills, it supports the idea of “using materials as much as possible” instead of “using them up.”
  • Saves money and gives you a unique, personalized upcycled item.
  • Challenges your creativity! There are hundreds of ways to transform and personalize items, as well as to reuse older items in the office.
Upcycled Home Office Furniture - Eco-Friendly Filing Cabinet | What is Upcycling? - EFFYDESK Blog

Upcycled Fashion

North Americans send over 10 million tonnes of clothing and textile waste to a landfill every year. Over 95% of these items could have been reused or recycled! 

The next time you have a bag full of clothes that you don’t wear anymore, try some easy upcycling to breathe new life into them. Even the most worn-out of clothes can turn into something useful! 

Upcycled Tshirt Tote Bag - What is Upcycling? | EFFYDESK Blog

Upcycling Furniture

Furniture is notoriously hard to recycle properly, especially since pieces like couches and chairs are made of so many different materials. More often than not, unwanted furniture ends up being dumped in landfills. Americans throw out nearly 8 million tonnes of furniture each year!

With just a bit of paint and an easy DIY, you’ll be able to upcycle old furniture into something one-of-a-kind and customized for your home or office!

  • Turn old drawers into display shelves that hang on your wall.
  • Replace the worn-out fabric on chairs to give them a new look
  • Add wheels to a plain IKEA dresser for an inexpensive bar cart.
  • Give your pet a hiding spot when you upcycle an old coffee table!
Upcycled Wall Shelving - What is Upcycling? | EFFYDESK Blog

Industrial Upcycling—Beyond Your Home

Upcycling can be done on an industrial level: just look at our friends over at ChopValue, who upcycle chopsticks when they bring them back to the microfactories and process them. The chopsticks stay in their original form and act as the base material for ChopValue to use to create new items. 

At ChopValue factories, chopsticks are treated with eco-friendly resin that helps the chopsticks bond together and produce an ultra-durable, environmentally sustainable material. Unlike traditional recycling centres, the sanitizing and cleaning uses no water at all, minimizing the amount of waste the factory produces. In fact, all of ChopValue’s processes are carbon-positive, meaning that the entire process actually stores more carbon than it uses!

Furniture Made From Upcycled Items

Eco-Friendly Laptop Stand | Laptop Legs - Closed Loop Collection | What is Upcycling? | EFFYDESK Blog

In partnership with ChopValue, we’ve launched a line of eco-friendly, ergonomic electric standing desks. Each EFFYDESK eco-friendly sit-stand desk table top is made with over 10,000 chopsticks that were saved from the landfill. Instead, they’re processed and turned into state-of-the-art desks that are good for the planet. Your desk is completely unique: the manufacturing process ensures that no two tabletops are alike!

You’ll receive your desk in sturdy, 100% recyclable cardboard packaging. When you’re done, make sure to check out these cardboard upcycling ideas before putting it in the recycling bin! 

Pair your new sustainably-made TerraDesk, with our eco-friendly filing cabinet, eco-friendly footrest, eco-friendly laptop stand, mobile accessories and wall decor - all made out of upcycled chopsticks! Where productivity meets sustainability.

Looking for an eco-friendly home office solution? EFFYDESK can help!

Eco-Friendly Closed Loop Collection - What is Upcycling? | EFFYDESK Blog

Here at EFFYDESK, we've partnered with Canadian manufacturing company, ChopValue to bring you the TerraDesk — an eco-friendly standing desk with a butcher block tabletop that's made entirely out of recycled chopsticks.

Locally sourced and locally manufactured, each TerraDesk is sustainably-made from 10,854 recycled chopsticks in a process that is carbon negative and great for the planet!

You can also browse our signature Office Chairs, and Monitor Mounts designed to boost workplace productivity, so you can get more done, more comfortably. 

Don't forget to check out our FAQ page or browse the blog archive for other helpful articles on ergonomics in the workplace.
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