While both upcycling and recycling have similar goals, there is a clear distinction.
Recycling is the process of converting waste or unwanted materials into a new product or adding it to a reusable product.
Upcycling is a form of recycling something unwanted, and making it reusable, fit for purpose and great to look at.
The difference between upcycling and recycling is clear. For example, when we return glass drink bottles back into circulation they are impossible to distinguish from bottles that are brand new. This is upcycling as the bottles are going back up the supply chain. As a comparison, plastic food containers can’t be reused for their original purpose as the integrity of the plastic has been compromised. As a result, they are re-manufactured into something different like clothing, carpet or toys. This is recycling as it goes down the supply chain rather than back up.