An exploratory study on the consequences of individual upcycling: is it worth making people feel attached to their upcycled products?

Sung, Kyungeun
Cooper, Tim
Kettley, Sarah
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Nottingham Trent University
Peer reviewed
Product attachment, the emotional bond experienced with a product, is an emerging concept for sustainable production and consumption. The logic behind it is that when people are attached to any product, they are more likely to postpone its replacement or disposal. Some types of product have been studied regarding product attachment in past research but the focus has been on manufacturers ’ perspectives rather than on consumers’ ‘everyday creativity’ activities such as ‘individual upcycling’. Individual upcycling, creation or modification out of used materials resulting in a higher quality or value product than the composition al elements, is particularly relevant to product attachment. This is because upcycling, as a creative, engaging user activity, may offer the experiences of self-expression, group affiliation, special memories and pleasure, all of which are possible product attachment determinants. In the meantime, recent evidence suggests that the number of people who upcycle things has increased, possibly as a response to the contemporary ‘Maker Movement’ and aided by physical and digital resources. Despite this growth, individual upcycling has not been investigated extensively, especially its relation to product attachment and product longevity. Acknowledging this, this study investigated the consequences of individual upcycling with respect to product attachment and the product longevity of upcycled products, and compared the results with mass-produced products with the same functions through an exploratory questionnaire with 23 UK-based upcycling practitioners. The results demonstrated that the attachment to upcycled products is positively correlated with irreplaceability, and irreplaceability with product care and expected product longevity. The results also showed that the expected product lifetime years of the upcycled product with attachment are longer than the estimated average product lifetime years of the mass-produced products with the same functions.
This work was undertaken in the Sustainable Consumption Research Group at Nottingham Trent University.
consumption, upcycling, product attachment, sustainability
Sung, K., Cooper, T. and Kettley, S. (2015) An exploratory study on the consequences of individual upcycling: is it worth making people feel attached to their upcycled products?. Conference Proceedings of the CADBE Doctoral Conference 2015, Nottingham, 8-9 June
Research Institute
Institute of Art and Design