What’s Your Dewey: 745.5 Recycling – Not Waste But Upcycling

You might expect to find Recycling under 363.7 (Environmental issues) and you will.  Strictly speaking, Recycling as a technology will be found in 628.4. While there are interesting titles in both those Deweys, what really fascinates me are the wonderful ideas that turn ‘junk’ into treasure, usually employing low-tech solutions. A term for this coined in the 1990’s is Upcycling. In a 2010 article in  intercongreen.com Upcycling is defined as:

A process that can be repeated in perpetuity of returning materials back to a pliable, usable form without degradation to their latent value—moving resources back up the supply chain.

My understanding is a little simpler – I call it ‘making useful and/or attractive things from things at hand’. The best place to find titles on this topic are the 745.5s. Below I have selected just a few to share but there are many, if you care to look.

craftsmartThe Craft Smart series of books is aimed at children and provides step-by-step instruction for 12 crafts in each title. Recycling by Danielle Lowy uses junk mail, bottles, socks, buttons and old ties to make toys, noticeboards, pincushions and jewellery. The instructions are well illustrated, clear and easy to follow – and not all completely ‘for children’.

greencraftGreen Crafts for Children by Emma Hardy is aimed at older children and young teens and gives step-by-step instructions for 35 projects using natural, recycled and found materials. The book is divided into 5 sections with the Recycling section providing 8 projects. My favourite is the felted bag made from an old, well-loved jumper.


Found and made: The art of upcycling by Lisa Hölzl is for teens and aims to arm them with a set of upcycling skills and resources for the future. In its Introduction it says ‘This book is about using your unwanted everyday household trash to make works of art.’ It also makes the point that ‘turning trash into treasured art is more than just recycling because it keeps rubbish out of the waste stream… finding a new purpose for your waste products before you throw them away.’ The book is very useful in encouraging readers to look at all materials in a new way and has some great suggestions worth pursuing.


Upcycling : 20 creative projects made from reclaimed materials by Max McMurdo photography by Simon Brown is a recent publication that is arguably an adult orientated, designer look at upcycling. At the onset, McMurdo points out that upcycling can also be re-purposing, reuse, reclaimed, salvaged, remade, preloved or reinvented. The book makes a good argument for not buying new, apart from the environmental benefits and possibly (though not necessarily) the cost-benefits, McMurdo makes a case for pushing design elements to review the way we create our living environments. Contents include Furniture, Storage & Display, Lighting and Accessories and a useful section on Tools & Techniques. Step-by-step instructions are accompanied by photographs and commentary.

index-aspxReclaim that : upcycling your home with style by Sarah Heeringa takes the view that we can and possibly should surround ourselves with things that have meaning and therefore re-use, re-purpose and redesign the things we love  for long term use. The book has many interesting ideas but anyone seriously wanting to pursue Sarah’s  views on interior design can also access them at her Facebook page www.facebook.com/reclaimthat/

There are so many ideas and thinking outside the box is guaranteed to bring more. Next week is National Recycling Week so in the spirit of ‘waste not want not’ it may be a perfect time to Upcycle some things. I may even revisit the 363.7s and the 628.4s to see what else I can use.

Nola Cavallaro


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