Challenges and support for scaling up upcycling businesses in the UK: Insights from small-business entrepreneurs

Sung, Kyungeun
Cooper, Tim
Ramanathan, Usha
Singh, Jagdeep
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IOS Press
Peer reviewed
Upcycling is the creation or modification of a product from used materials, components and products which is of equal or higher quality or value than the compositional elements. Within the context of increased product longevity, it enables a reduction in the use of raw materials by extending the lifetime of used materials, components and products, thereby increasing material efficiency and reducing industrial energy consumption. If scaled up to a considerable level through appropriate interventions, upcycling could, in theory, contribute significantly to preventing environmental harm. In particular, upcycling-based businesses have been identified as one of sustainable alternatives to prevailing business models that are based on unrestrained access to virgin materials, in contrast with the circular economy. Previous research regarding upcycling has focused mostly on fashion and textiles and highlighted the potential of upcycling businesses, providing sector-specific suggestions for expansion beyond their currently niche status. There is a critical knowledge gap concerning ways of achieving the full potential of upcycling-based businesses across the whole economy. This paper therefore provides results from a study on the challenges that upcycling entrepreneurs face when attempting to scale up and how to overcome them, based on an exploratory workshop with 12 British upcycling entrepreneurs. It identifies the key challenges faced by upcycling businesses and presents a mapping of the systemic support required for overcoming them, with potential actors.
open access article
product longevity, scaling up, sustainable business, sustainable production, upcycling
Sung, K., Cooper, T., Ramanathan, U. and Singh, J. (2017) Challenges and support for scaling up upcycling businesses in the UK: Insights from small-business entrepreneurs. Product Lifetimes And The Environment (PLATE) 2017 Conference, Delft, 8-10 November, pp. 397-401
Research Institute
Institute of Art and Design