FROM OLD TO NEW
Upcycling and recycling have different definitions. Taking an old tyre and cutting it out, as they do in South Africa, and make a robust pair of walking thongs, is upcycling. Changing or improving an item’s further use.
Recycling is the same item dismantled and reused as something else. For example, green waste for mulch. By chopping and chipping its volume, it breaks down quicker to return to the earth as organic matter.
Many raw materials have had a former life. Composite garden edging that was once mostly plastic of some sort is milled, melted and mixed with hardwood sawdust and other ‘virgin’ plastics to make a very efficient range of posts, rails, bollards and decking slats that are more durable than wood.
We have yet to see the advent of industries here that demolish houses and the actual bricks and mortar become aggregates to be remixed into new building products or as heritage gravels. Think of old red bricks that no longer have any building integrity in their structure and are crushed as an attractive pathway, or more finer still and sprayed on a wall as coloured texture.
Upcycling can be applied to an old, haggard bush that gets a hot prune and a good trim and becomes a shapely or tortured topiary.
Even soil can be upcycled. Imagine all that clay in your garden if it was soft as silk, smelt like you wanted to scoff it, and had endless happy hours just sifting it through your hands. You can enjoy this tactile delight with the inclusion of composted waste, green waste that has cooked itself from within, decaying kitchen scraps, shredded newspapers and adding a bit of gypsum. This is the ultimate soil upcycle.
Recycling might also apply to one of the most beautiful of our natives we seldom see as they seem to be located in a few isolated pockets around Australia. Cooktown can boast of forests of Eucalyptus phoenicia or Scarlet gum. When its beautiful, spherical powder puff balls of red/ orange form completely, they drip with nectar, and as a result have every conceivable bird sipping its sweet booty. The recycling also becomes upcycling as the flower will last for some time fresh. It then dies off to become a beautiful dried arrangement. These trees will grow around the northern coast up into the dryer ranges. They like sandy soils. Well worthy of upcycling and recycling.