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Turn non-recyclable items into new products

January 12, 2010 12:53:55 AM PST
Recycling is all the rage, but if all you're doing is throwing things in the recycle bin, you're missing a big opportunity to protect the planet. Upcycling gives you another way to save with style.Drink pouches become pencil pouches, and cookie bags transform into tote bags.

"Upcycling is the process of taking non-recyclable material that can't be traditionally recycled, and finding a way to directly repurpose it into a new product. By doing so, you give it a new life cycle," said Albe Zakes of Terracycle.

Environmentalists say it's finally taking hold. Even the 2010 Olympic medals are being made out of recycled electronics. But you don't have to win a medal to score.

These days, designers are proving environmentally friendly can be fashion friendly, too.

"It's really opening people's eyes to the possibilities," Zakes said.

Now there are entire businesses built around the trend, from mom-and-pop shops to international companies.

"We are reusing millions of wrappers and bags and pouches that would otherwise go to landfill. We are replacing the need for virgin matter, so for every backpack that someone buys that's made from waste, that's one less backpack that needs to be created from new materials or new plastics," Zakes said.

Even mainstream stores like Walmart, Target and Home Depot are carrying remade merchandise or sending their waste to stores that upcycle.

"People have found not only is it good for the planet, but it's good for business as well," Zakes said.

It's also good for customers who love to turn trash into treasure.

You can also upcycle on your own, making something from the waste you have around the house. For example, old yogurt cups are great as change collectors or flower pots. A quick Internet search for upcycled products will present dozens of options for you to create.