This Blog is Trash: Upcycling vs. Recycling

There are a lot of types of ‘cycling’ in this world of ours. 

You’ve got bicycling, a great way to get from place to place while reducing pollution and getting a fun healthy workout. You’ve got unicycling, which makes for a great skill if you want to pursue a career in the clown or entertainment industry. And you’ve got things like upcycling and recycling, two eco-friendly manufacturing practices that our vintage clothing and custom hat store are very familiar with.

WTF is Upcycling

Upcycling is something you may have never heard of before. Especially if you aren’t familiar with eco-friendly manufacturing practices that our online clothing store and many other apparel companies are starting to incorporate today.

First of all, no, upcycling is not an extreme BMX sport that has to do with scaling the side of buildings on a bike. However, if a sport like that does exist, please let us know as we would love to check it out. 

Upcycling, also known as “creative reuse”, has to do with taking unused objects and materials including anything from furniture to fabrics, and turning it into a new product, commodity, or another type of physical resource. 

As Upcycle That, an upcycling ideas and creation company puts it, upcycling is “the act of taking something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function [and] in doing so, the finished product often becomes more practical, valuable and beautiful than what it previously was.”

what is upcycling

But wait a second, isn’t that the same thing as recycling? Almost, but not quite.

Upcycling vs. Recycling

Recycling and upcycling are like father and daughter or mother and son. They are from the same family, but they’re not exactly the same thing.

Recycling has to do with taking consumer materials such as paper, metal, glass, or plastic, and breaking it down so their base materials can be made into a new consumer product, which is often of lesser quality, i.e aluminum cans, cereal boxes, glass containers, car bumpers, and the like.

But when you upcycle something, you aren’t necessarily breaking down the material. You are more “refashioning” it in some type some of way like cutting down shirt material into strips of yarn to be made into new pieces of apparel. 

One of our favorite eco-friendly clothing stores that incorporates upcycling practices is Frankie Collective, an online clothing store that specializes in vintage, re-worked, and recycled 90s clothing, and streetwear. 

vintage clothing

While we don’t carry re-worked and upcycled clothing exclusively, some of our custom hat designs and vintage clothes are created with upcycled materials. Particularly our hats, which are made with something called recycled polyethylene terephthalate, or, rPET. 

What is rPET?

Recycled polyethylene terephthalate, or, rPET, is a good friend of our vintage clothing and custom snapback shop. He’s always hanging around our warehouse and design studio. Sharing stories of his voyages or playing pranks on Scott, our founder and lead hat designer.

But besides his humor and antics, what we love most about rPET is the impact it has on saving the environment and creating beautiful custom hats that we can share with you

custom snapback

We know how much you guys would love to hear us talk about each and every detailed step that goes into making rPET, but to keep it short, here are the basic steps.

How to make rPET - 

  1. First, the materials (bottles and other plastic materials) are crushed and pressed into bales.
  2. Next, those bales are usually passed off to recycling companies who further treat the rPET by crushing, washing, separating, drying, and shredding the material into smaller fragments.
  3. However, these small fragments still contain residue, so something called plastic granulation is conducted which turns the rPET into a grain substance, something referred to as PET flakes.
  4. Finally, these flakes are used as the raw material for products that would otherwise be made of polyester, such as our custom hats.


Melt Filtration

Melt filtration is another process that some recycling companies use to further remove contaminants from the rPET. 

This has to do with melting the polymer and filtering it through a screen to extract the contaminants. While this is a commonly used practice, not all rPET products are created through melt filtration. 

That being said, an rPET product not created through melt filtration can still be perfectly clean. 

How Are We Helping?

As a vintage clothing and custom hat shop with a strong conviction to eco-friendly manufacturing practices, we are proud to say that a wide variety of our own designs are made with rPET fabric. Furthermore, we take extreme efforts to ensure that the recycling companies we partner with are abiding by all EPA recycling standards and practices.

Additionally, we also have upcycled vintage snapbacks for sale on our online hat store that might not be made of rPET, but are still considered an upcycled product since they are being repurposed and reused as new products.

What Are Upcycled Vintage Snapbacks?

An upcycled vintage snapback is a custom 1-of-1 hat made from vintage snapbacks that may have been previously owned, or no longer wanted anymore. Most of the time these hats are pre-worn. They're old inventory from a manufacturer that never got produced. So they're usually deadstock blanks that have been sitting in a warehouse.

You can rest assured that all of our vintage snapbacks and custom hats are of the highest quality and go through rigorous quality testing before making their way to our online snapback store.

When it comes to upcycled vintage snapbacks, this has to do with getting “blanks”, or vintage snapbacks with nothing on them, and applying our own designs to them such as patches, logos, or insignias of some sort.

eco friendly snapbacks

Our upcycled vintage snapback practices give you the ability to create and personalize your own custom snapback or a whole set of snapbacks to your exact liking. Not only is this a cost-effective way to get your hands and head on a totally sweet and personalized vintage snapback, but you can also feel happy knowing that you’re rocking a piece of apparel that is doing something good for the environment

At the end of the day, what we’re doing with these upcycled vintage snapbacks is taking something that someone doesn’t want anymore, and making it cool again. Giving it a second life. And for our vintage clothing and custom snapback shop, that’s what upcycling and being an eco-friendly company is all about.

Writing the Next Chapter of Vintage Snapbacks

As we continue to grow, we hope that our network of companies and businesses dedicated to keeping this world green grows as well. So if you have any stakes in eco-friendly manufacturing processes, or you’re just interested in learning about how you can help, feel free to drop us a note.

Until then, we encourage you to check out our custom hats made of rPET and other recycled materials as well as our upcycled vintage snapbacks that won’t just make you look good but feel good too as you’re taking part in something that keeps our earth a little more healthy. 

We’re not saying we’re heroes for selling upcycling vintage snapbacks or using recycled materials in our custom snapbacks. And we’re not saying you’re a hero for wearing one. But it’s silent good deeds like this that will make the relationship between humans and mother earth a healthier one and our time on this blue and green planet a better one.

It’s up to us to keep the planet clean. And every little bit helps. Stay tuned for more Snag & Stitch campaigns other than our eco-friendly manufacturing practices to make this world of ours a cleaner one.