Before we founded Slothers Co. Ltd and The Slow Living Company, we ran a small hobbyist upcycling business. For those of you who have not heard of this mini revolution, ‘upcycling’ also known as ‘creative reuse’ is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality for better environmental value.
Upcycling is a trend that seems to be continuing to grow in popularity and with the heightened publicity around climate change and the current economic climate, it is easy to see why. We believe that upcycling is not only a great way to reduce the amount of waste produced, but it is also a fantastic way of creating some beautiful items at a fraction of the buying price – plus, what’s better than sitting back and admiring something that you made yourself!
As we spent more time looking into this subject area, we learnt more about the negative impacts that waste is having on our planet and it became a way of life for us. We really began to understand that we live in a world where many household goods end up in landfill, spoiling our cherished environments and discharging toxic compounds into our air and soil. Not only is waste harmful for the environment, it costs us billions of pounds each year.
In the US 55% of waste gets buried in landfill, 33% gets recycled and 12.5% goes to incinerators. Collecting and transporting all this trash is a mammoth task, according to the National Solid Waste Management Association, the solid waste industry employs 368,000 people, you can only imagine how much this costs each year.
Britain is starting to do its bit when it comes to the environment, but there are still millions of tonnes of waste being dumped in the UK every year. Government, councils and businesses are starting to realise that we cannot continue to put waste in the ground indefinitely because there is limited capacity left.
So the good news is that our nation is taking recycling and reusing more seriously, but the question is whether enough is being done. There is still plenty of room for innovation when it comes to reusing things that we normally consider to be rubbish, but for now the best place to start is in your own home.
Below we have listed our top tips on methods, tools, places to reclaim your beautiful junk, along with some of our own upcycles to get your creative juices flowing.
- Take your time and select your materials carefully. Try to source good, quality scrap that will make life easier not harder when you come to start your project
- Try mixing materials and finishes. One of our favourite looks is metal and wood, giving projects an industrial feel
- Preparation is key. Always prepare surfaces before you start working on them. For example, wipe down your piece to remove dirt and debris before painting
- With wood, always sand with the grain. This will produce a nicer finish and stop the wood becoming damaged
- Chalk paint for wood is highly recommended. For beginners, this is by far the best paint to use as it is easier to cover blemishes and can cover existing paint
- Don’t be afraid to take risks. You won’t get it right all the time, but if you have an idea, give it ago. Just remember if it doesn’t work you can always repurpose it into something else
- Jigsaw – This will make life a lot easier when it comes to cutting varying sizes of wood
- Hand Sander – Trust us when we say this will save you so much time and arm ache compared to the paper sheet alternative
- Plane – As you will soon learn, especially if you have your heart set on a project involving pallets or scaffold boards, reclaimed materials are not always flat and straight
- Drill – This will speed up the process of joining your pieces together
- Old Hand Saw – This is the most basic tool for cutting up pallets, it is also the cheapest
- Tape Measure – A must unless you plan on making wonky projects. Remember, measure twice, cut once.
- Pencil – You’ll need something to mark down your measurements
- Screwdriver – Handy for taking old pieces apart and putting your new piece together
WHERE TO FIND YOUR RECLAIMED JUNK:
- Carboots – These happen all across the country throughout the summer months, they are always a great place to find a bargain
- Charity Shops – A little bit more time needs to be spent when searching charity shops as prices can vary a lot, but you will eventually find a bargain piece
- Markets – Similar to carboots, they are always a good place to find some nice pieces to upcycle but be prepared to haggle
- Council Recycling Centres – A number of waste and recycling centres around the UK now have a special unit where they sell some of the nicer items that have been disposed of. Please be aware not all counties offer this service, be sure to check your local council website for more information
- Online – Sites like Gumtree and Ebay are still a great way to find pieces perfect for your creative projects.
Here’s a selection of some of our own upcycles we have done over the years.