Introduction: State-of-the-art upcycling research and practice




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Mass production and consumption based on virgin materials have been the mainstream practice for decades across industrialised nations. Resource consumption has reached an unsustainable level, leading to devastating environmental impacts. For a more sustainable future, not only environmentally but economically and socially, material cycles need to be slowed down and, if possible, closed. Upcycling presents a promising alternative to mass production and consumption based on the use of virgin materials, in order to slow material cycles. There has been a growing academic and industrial interest in upcycling, particularly related to the emerging circular economy. Research in upcycling, however, is still in its infancy. Development of upcycling theory and practices is required if there is to be a transition in upcycling from niche to mainstream. As part of our efforts to develop upcycling theories and practices, we organised the first International Upcycling Symposium and called for contributions by international academics, practitioners and other relevant actors working on upcycling. In response, we received a wide range of papers in the field of upcycling across disciplines, sectors, industries, countries and regions. This chapter provides a brief summary of each contribution showing the state of the art in upcycling research and practice at the global scale which provides fundamental understanding of upcycling with varied definitions and forms across sectors and scales, and informs readers of valuable ideas, theories, projects, experiences and insights into upcycling by global experts.



upcycling, sustainability, sustainable consumption, sustainable production, sustainable design, sustainable business, circular economy, waste management, sustainable development


Sung, K., Singh, J., Bridgens, B., and Cooper, T. (2021). Introduction: State-of-the-art upcycling research and practice. In: Sung, K. et al. (Eds.) State-of-the-Art Upcycling Research and Practice: Proceedings of the International Upcycling Symposium 2020. Cham: Springer.


Research Institute

Institute of Art and Design