Disclosing the definition on the upcycling concept : An exploratory study investigating the concept of upcycling and standardisation and its role on the path towards a circular textile industry

University essay from Högskolan i Borås/Akademin för textil, teknik och ekonomi

Abstract: The ’upcycling’ term and concept have gained interest as a new strategy of implementing circularity within businesses, however the concept have not yet been defined, resulting in a somewhat divided perception of what it entails and what activities it includes. This misunderstanding may hinder the circular economy development. However, Standards have been discussed to add structure to the industry, concerning sustainable standards, they have been argued necessary in order to reach levels of necessary change. Thus, this study aims to explore what upcycling is, how such terminology is defined and standardized, furthermore how this might be a way to come closer to a circular textile industry. Together with a review of earlier research on standards, policies and around change in institutions, an in-depth literature review was conducted to depict the definitions on upcycling within different fields. Additionally, interviews were conducted with companies and ‘experts’ within the textile and fashion industry, investigating the industry’s perception on ‘upcycling’ along with standardization of such circular terminology. Findings of the study confirmed standards are an important way to reach a level of agreement enabling for a circular change. However, it existed split opinions on the definition of ‘upcycling’ and what activities that are in fact upcycling. Nonetheless most of the reviewed articles as well as respondents both amongst the companies as well as the ‘experts’ argued that it essentially means keeping value or adding value, financially and or value as material quality. However, concerning the activities and what the value adding activities are, it seems to depend in what state the discarded material or product are in. Hence it is important to evaluate before ‘upcycling’, making the process of upcycling more efficient, regarding material optimization, also financially more desirable, a win win. The thesis argues to provide with knowledge regarding the ‘upcycling’ concept, as well on the importance of agreed definitions through standards, how they are developed and how it encourages institutional change. 

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