Recycling, reclaimed, upcycled, repurposed… are they all the same? Well, yes and no. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, we like to think of them as slightly different. Recycling, the term everyone is most familiar with, is simply taking an item, breaking it down into its base material and creating something new (and sometimes different) with it. Repurposing, or upcycling, is using an item for something other than its intended purpose; maybe it was also reclaimed in the process. To be reclaimed, an item has to have reached the end of its useful life and be destined for the trash, but instead of being thrown away, it’s transformed into something new.
Take a glass wine bottle. If it’s crushed down, melted and then blown into gorgeous glassware, that’s recycled. If the bottle is simply washed out and used as a vase, that’s repurposed (or upcycled). If that bottle is cut down and polished into an edgy, modern vase, that’s reclaimed. And yes, there are some items that blur the lines between the terms, especially repurposed and reclaimed; that’s a natural part of the process.
Reclamation has become a major factor in some industries as items that would have become part of the waste stream are instead reclaimed and put to new, and often beautiful use. Our bike chain products are all made with bicycle parts that would otherwise have gone to the landfill, instead they’ve been cleaned up and crafted into stylish pieces of home décor. Old railroad ties find new, practical life as a stylish bench and industrial steel drums are transformed into eye-catching home décor with a cool, modern-rustic flair.
Reclamation keeps valuable materials out of the waste stream, reducing the load on already over-full landfills. It also reduces the call for new materials, so less wood is cut down, less ore mined, less resources needed. From start to finish, reclaimed materials are smarter, greener and cooler.
Cooler? Yep. The best part about reclaimed materials is knowing that you’ve got a piece that has history. That cool metal mirror hanging in your hall used to be an industrial drum. Those awesome, rustic wooden candleholders were once parts of a wooden building. Each piece has a story; each piece is unique. Little nail holes, paint bits, industrial labels and odd scratches are evidence of a purpose served, of a previous life.
Whether you call it repurposed, upcycled or reclaimed, it’s cool, and it’s oh-so green.