PRE-cycling, RE-cycling and UP-cycling

Recycle TreeBy now you’re familiar with Re-cycling, but have you heard of Pre-cycling? What about Up-cycling? What follows are descriptions of these “cycling” processes. Applying them to your routines will reduce the amount of packaging and other items that end up in landfills.


Pre-cycling is basically preventing recycling. It’s the practice of avoiding and reducing consumer waste by buying unpackaged, reusable or recyclable products.


  1. Unpackaged items: buy in bulk quantities (proven winners only).
  2. Reusable items: grocery bags, water bottles, batteries, cloth napkins, “real” plates, cups, cutlery, etc.
  3. Recyclable packaging: buy items with as little packaging as possible in #1 and #2 plastics, cardboard, aluminum, steel and glass.


It’s great to recycle through your municipality but you (hopefully!) may want to go farther.


  1. Plastic bags: bring to bins at the entrance to grocery stores (not your recycling bin).
  2. Fabric: bring to Goodwill (keep separate from non-damaged clothing and label the bag).
  3. Electronics and accessories: bring any and all to Goodwill.
  4. Plastic packing peanuts: bring to UPS and other shipping stores.
  5. CFL (corkscrew) lightbulbs: bring to Home Depot and Lowe’s (bulbs contain mercury).
  6. #5 Plastics: bring to Whole Foods Markets (not recycled by most municipalities).


Up-cycling is the creative reuse of materials to produce a higher quality item.


  1. Memory quilts made from t-shirts, ties, etc.
  2. Purses made from soda tabs.
  3. Mittens made from sweaters.
  4. Clocks made from vinyl record albums.
  5. Rag rugs made from … you guessed it … rags.
  6. Sock monkeys … I’ll say no more.

Check out Pinterest for tons of other up-cycling ideas. Please post some of your up-cycled projects as we’d love to see them.

I hope I’ve expanded your awareness of options available to prevent unnecessary trash and recycling. Why not be creative and up-cycle some holiday gifts?

Work toward keeping your ecological footprint as small as possible!




Ellen Tozzi

About Ellen Tozzi

Ellen Tozzi is a Greater Philadelphia professional organizer with Natural Order based in Lawrenceville, NJ.
Visit Ellen Tozzi's website
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One Response to PRE-cycling, RE-cycling and UP-cycling

  1. Danielle OBrien Danielle says:

    Excellent ideas, thank you!

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