“Upcycling” refers to the fabrication of a new product from old materials. How this is different from “recycling,” I cannot exactly pinpoint, except that there appears to be an aesthetic milieu attached to “upcycling”- something of a millennial take on shabby chic. Call something “recycled,” it’s someone else’s old crap. Call something “upcycled,” you can sell it on Etsy.
Take, for example, this… shelf, available for the low, low price of $395, a price for which you could afford an actual antique shelf. The seller, however, appears confident that his creation is just as good as any old piece of legitimate furniture. From the Craigslist ad:
This rustic ladder shelving unit is made from a 12’ ladder with two upholstered burlap boards. The ladder comes apart and folds up and can easily be taken apart for transport. I also have another ladder shelving unit that was made from the same original ladder and is also available upon request.
As one of those working class young Brooklynites currently sitting on a dilapidated IKEA couch, in front of a 3,000 pound television set, which lives on planks of wood perched atop cinder blocks, I know how to be resourceful on a budget, and I know how to make due with cheap and free materials. I also know the difference between real furniture and an amalgam of building materials. And building materials, no matter how expertly stacked, do not cost $395.
Thinking, of course, that this must be a Craigslist prank, I was delighted to see that the seller also has an Etsy store, where he does appear to sell some actually cool stuff. Then I saw this:
“Retro Early 1980s Baby Bouncer”
“Retro Animals Print High Chair”
No, Brooklyn Upcycler! Old baby shit is not “retro!” Old baby shit has been recalled. Because baby furniture used to be comprised of nothing but sharp metal and a series of nooses! Baby technology advances because babies have lost their damn little baby limbs on unsafe high chairs and bouncy seats! Old baby shit is neither functional nor aesthetically pleasing! Damn, Brooklyn Upcycler, sometimes you just have to throw old shit away!