Recycling vs. Upcycling – The difference between our U-Zac and Bikezac
We recently launched our first collection of bike bags made from upcycled materials. These U-Zacs were each unique, as they were made from selected pieces of banners from past theater plays. In the course of this project, we received many customer messages asking about the difference between our upcycled U-Zac and our well-known recycled Bikezac, and why we couldn’t offer several U-Zacs with the same motif.
Due to the great interest, this blog entry will hence give an insight into the different forms of processing, using the example of our Bikezac and U-Zac.
Our resources are finite. To avoid exploiting our planet, it’s important to reuse raw materials and keep them in circulation for as long as possible. This is where upcycling and recycling – two different types of processing to reuse materials – come into play. The main difference lies in the way the material is processed.
Recycling is the process of collecting a waste product and transformed it into a new raw material – which is then used to make new products. In our case, the Bikezacs are made from recycled, post-consumption rice sacs. In other words, used rice sacs are collected, cleaned and remelted. This mixture is the basis for PP, which is woven in large sheets and finally forms the basic fabric for our Bikezacs. The good thing about this procedure is that we are reusing resources, instead of being part of the production of new plastic. Still, this procedure is time-consuming, requires a lot of energy, and can be less cost effective than simply producing new raw material. Additionally, recycling mixed plastic types can lead to devaluation of material strength. This is why we only use woven PP from recycled rice sacs. The recycled plastic is pure and results in a material as good as new.
So what else can you do?
Well, another option for reusing material from post-consumption products is upcycling. This form of processing is about finding a “waste material” that can be used for something new, without having to modify its core components. A vivid example is the fabric used for our U-Zacs. Believe it or not, they are made from old theater banners. These beautiful promotion banners are often discarded after the show is over, as the need for promotion of this specific show is no longer necessary. The banner itself is still of top quality: robust and waterproof; lightweight (as they are frequently attached to house walls) … all in all, a perfect material for outdoor bags.
Once we saw the value in this material, we realized its potential for a very special bike bag.
Upcycling in our case means that the banners can simply be used as they were. They were cleaned but did not need to undergo any reconstruction or addition of other material to get a wonderful fabric. All it requires to create beautiful, unique bags is some creativity and some daring design visions. With these skills, it is possible to find beautiful and abstract cutouts in each banner. Thus, a number in the bottom corner no longer resembles a phone number, and the king's cape from the last Cinderella play becomes a bag associated with a pink beach. And suddenly the material we use wasn't devalued – it was “upvalued” through revaluation. That's what upcycling is all about.
In line with our values we are very excited about our first upcycling successes and the high demand from our customers and retailers. Thinking about all the banners advertising different events, companies, and products in every city, we have so many ideas on how to continue and develop the idea of the U-Zac.
Stay tuned for updates 😊.