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Give your waste a second life

Empty cans and bottles are piling up, but you postpone taking them to the recycling yard again and again. Why would you anyway; walking up there takes forever and you’re bound to spill a bit of leftover beer over your jumper. This could be you? Try upcycling.

Repurposing and reusing old stuff – the concept of upcycling as this easy. Upcycling involves converting materials and products into new materials of better quality and more value. Other than with classic recycling, upcycling doesn’t transform waste into raw materials, but into a completely new product. This saves a lot of energy and gives a new purpose to any materials that can’t be recycled.

Doing mother nature a favour

Upcycling has been popular for quite a while, especially since we’re becoming more and more conscious of waste and its effects on the planet. Many products remain in a good condition even after they’ve served their original purpose. Usually, we’d throw them away at this point. Upcycling is all about giving these products a second life and making them into something that belongs in our home, not in the rubbish. Jam jars are a good example: If you don’t regularly make jam yourself, you’re sure to end up with loads of empty jars that you don’t need. They make for pretty flower vases or lamps. This doesn’t only mean you’re producing less waste, you’re also saving money you’d usually spend on new vases and lamps – and you don’t need to go to the recycling yard as often.

Jam jars make for cute little lamps.

Not the same old story again

Personally, what I like most about upcycling is that it adds a personal touch to your home. When I moved into my first own flat, I couldn’t afford spending much money on furniture and decoration. So I went to Ikea and got everything I needed, from a sofa to kitchen knives. What I liked about this is that it made me feel at home at my friends’ house, as we all had the same dining table. What I didn’t like is that we didn’t only have the same dining table, but our entire flats looked almost identical. This is how I came across and fell in love with upcycling: It allowed me to create furniture and decorative items that nobody else has – as for example my bed and makeup mirror that I both made of pallets.

My unique and self-made pallet bed.

Secondhand shops as a source of inspiration

If you’d like to give upcycling a try but don’t have anything you don’t need lying around at home, I recommend going to a secondhand shop («Brockenstube»). A paradise for vintage fans and hipsters alike, you’ll find thousands of old things there that are waiting to be repurposed and reused. They might seem useless at first, but if you look at them from an upcycling point of view, you’ll suddenly realise how valuable and unique these quirky old things are.

Spotted a rusty bird cage that you like the look of, but don’t own a budgie? Doesn’t matter, it will look great as a hanging planter or a lantern. Found a beautiful old chest, but don’t need additional storage? No problem, turn it into a unique liquor cabinet. That’s exactly what I did and believe me, it gets a lot of attention from guests.

Hide or stage your spirits in your very own liquor cabinet.

Quick guide

Want to make a liquor cabinet yourself? It’s easy. This is all you need:\

Solid wood boards (or chipboard if you prefer a less expensive version), toothed racks, wooden blocks, a case of wine, a cordless screwdriver and wood glaze.

  • Before you start, measure out the chest and cut the wood boards to fit this size. Decide where you’d like to put the shelves, allowing you to cut and attach the racks to the sides of the chest. Apply the wood glaze before you attach anything. When it comes to choosing a glaze colour, go with whatever suits you. Personally, I used a colour that matches the original wood.

  • The wine rack belongs in the very bottom of the chest. If you go for a case that fits, all you need to do is apply the glaze. Of course I could have built the case myself, but honestly, it’s not worth the effort. Why make things more complicated than necessary?

  • That’s the inside of the cabinet done. To allow the chest to stand on its side and be able to open the door, you’ll need some kind of pedestal. This is where the wood blocks come into play: Glaze them and attach one at each corner of your chest. All that’s left now is to fill your self-made liquor cabinet with spirits, wine and beer. You’re done!

For DIY beginners

You can’t find a suitable chest and wood work isn’t for you anyway? Don’t worry, most upcycling projects don’t require great DIY skills. Paint, drill holes and screws are all you need to turn most of your old things into something new. Give it a go; the possibilities are virtually endless. If your imagination isn’t, here’s some inspiration:

A cute little garden of succulents in an old wine bottle.
With a splash of colour, an old cheese grater is turned into a jewellery stand
This knife block is for anyone who’s passionate about reading and cooking.
Don’t throw away your old bike, just make it into a unique lamp.

Carolin Teufelberger, Zurich

  • Junior Editor
My life in a nutshell? On a quest to broaden my horizon. I love discovering and learning new skills and I see a chance to experience something new in everything – be it travelling, reading, cooking, movies or DIY.

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