Upcycling and Recycling: What’s the Difference?
Upcycling is a form of recycling. The difference between upcycling and recycling lies in the way a product is prepared for reuse: In recycling, products are broken down into their individual basic building blocks so they can be put together again I order to be reused. With upcycling, you can also process the products to use parts differently, but there is no industrial process behind it.
You upgrade discarded products by using them for purposes other than those for which they were originally intended.
- a tea light holder made from an old jar of preserved food
- a wallet made from an old pair of jeans
- a bag made from an old T-shirt or pillowcase
Recycling is an industrial process in which the raw materials of a product are prepared for recycling.
- plastic bottles is used to create new plastic bottles
- scrap metals melted and pressed into a new shape
- glass melted and made into new bottles
How to Upcycle Old Mugs
We’ve put together a few ideas for you to upcycle your old mugs. You’ll see that with a bit of creativity, the possibilities are sheer endless! Below you’ll find a quick overview on how you can upcycle your old mugs – making space for a new custom mug or one featuring your favorite
- Use them as planters for small succulent plants or herbs
- Turn them into candle holders by filling them with wax and adding a wick
- Turn them into bird feeders by filling them with birdseed and attaching a hook or string to hang them outside
- Use them as a base for a DIY terrarium
- Use them as a decor piece with decoupage technique
Turning Coffee Cups into Planters
Using coffee cups as planters is a great way to upcycle old mugs. When you use coffee cups as planters, it’s important to choose plants that are well-suited to container gardening and can thrive in the limited space of a coffee cup. Some good options include succulents, herbs, or small flowers.
Here’s your quick guide:
- Clean the mug thoroughly. Make sure to remove any residual coffee or tea stains.
- Drill or punch holes in the bottom of the mug for drainage. This is important to ensure that the plants don’t become waterlogged.
- Add a layer of small pebbles or gravel to the bottom of the mug. This will help with drainage and keep the soil from washing out of the holes.
- Add potting soil on top of the pebbles or gravel. The amount of soil you need will depend on the size of the mug and the plant you are using.
- Carefully remove the plant from its original container and place it in the mug. Gently press the soil around the plant to secure it in place.
- Water the plant. Make sure to not use to much water as it can cause root rot.
- Place the mug in a sunny location but be careful not to put it in direct sunlight as it can overheat the roots.
Turning a Mug into a Candle
Making a candle from an old mug is a simple and easy way to reuse an old mug and create a unique and useful item. Try creating different kind of candles by using different waxes, wicks, and scents. Also, be careful when working with hot wax (danger!). A very simple way to increase the life of your favorite mug!
These steps will help you:
- Gather your materials: an old mug, wax (such as soy or beeswax), a wick, a double boiler or a saucepan and a metal bowl that fits inside of it, a thermometer, and fragrance oil (optional)
- Clean the mug thoroughly and make sure it is dry
- Cut your wick to the desired length, leaving some extra on both ends to tie it around a pencil or chopstick to keep it centered while pouring the wax
- Melt the wax using a double boiler or a metal bowl placed on top of a saucepan filled with water. Heat the water until it is hot but not boiling and add the wax to the metal bowl, stirring occasionally until it is fully melted
- If you want to add fragrance oil, you can do it now, mixing it well with the melted wax
- Once the wax has melted, use a thermometer to check the temperature. It should be around 150°F-170°F
- Carefully pour the melted wax into the mug. Make sure to keep the wick centered
- Allow the candle to cool and solidify for several hours or overnight. Trim the wick to about 1/4 inch
- Your candle is now ready to use. Light it and enjoy the warm ambiance
Turning Old Mugs into Bird Feeders
A fun and easy way to upcycle old mugs and attract birds to your backyard or garden, is to create a homemade bird feeder. Note that you can also paint, decorate or personalize your mug before filling them with birdseed. This way you will have a unique bird feeder that will match your garden or backyard style. Also, be sure to refill the feeder when the birdseed runs low, and clean it periodically to prevent mold growth. Try experimenting with different bird feed to attract different bird species – more information about what birds eat can be found here.
Seven easy steps will help turn your garden into a bird paradise and help reuse an old mug:
- Collect the materials you’ll need: an old mug, birdseed, a hook or string, and a drill or hammer and nails
- Clean the mug thoroughly and make sure it is dry
- Drill or punch holes in the bottom of the mug. This will allow the water to drain out and prevent the birdseed from getting moldy
- Attach a hook or string to the mug. You can do this by drilling a small hole in the handle and threading the string through, or by attaching a hook or nail to the bottom of the mug
- Fill the mug with birdseed, leaving a little room at the top
- Hang the mug in a tree or other location where you would like to attract birds
- Enjoy watching the birds as they come to feed from your homemade bird feeder
Using an Old Coffee Cup to Make a DIY Terrarium
A creative and fun way to upcycle old mugs is to create a DIY terrarium – a unique and interesting feature piece for your home. When you use coffee cups as a base for a terrarium, it’s important to choose plants that are well-suited to container gardening and can thrive in the limited space of a coffee cup. Succulents, cacti, and small ferns are some of the best options. Also, you can use different types of cups, and add different elements to make it unique and personalized.
Follow the steps below for the best results:
- Gather your materials: an old coffee cup, small plants or succulents, potting soil, small pebbles or gravel, and any other decorative elements you’d like to add (such as small figurines, shells, or moss)
- Thoroughly clean and dry the coffee cup
- Add a layer of small pebbles or gravel to the bottom of the coffee cup. This will help with drainage and keep the soil from washing out of the cup
- Add a layer of potting soil on top of the pebbles or gravel. The amount of soil you need will depend on the size of the cup and the plants you are using
- Carefully remove the plants from their original containers and place them in the coffee cup. Gently press the soil around the plants to secure them in place
- Add any other decorative elements you’d like to include, such as small figurines, shells, or moss
- Water the plants, making sure not to over-water to prevent root rot
- Place your coffee cup terrarium in a sunny location. Be careful not to put it in direct sunlight as it can overheat the plant and cause them to dry out
Using Decoupage to Decorate and Repurpose an Old Mug
What is decoupage? An artistic way to decorate your mug with paper cutouts that you glue to it before you seal it with varnish. This is how you create great effects with your decorative components. The word “decoupage” comes from the French word “decouper,” which means “to cut out.” The technique is versatile and can be used on a variety of surfaces including wood, glass, metal, plastic, and ceramics.
Using an old mug as a decor piece with decoupage technique is a fun and easy way to upcycle old mugs and create a unique and interesting decoration.
This is how:
- Collect the materials you’ll need: an old mug, decoupage glue, decorative paper or fabric, a brush, and a sealant (optional)
- Ensure both the inside and outside are clean and free of dirt and grease
- Cut the decorative paper or fabric to the desired size, leaving a little extra on all sides to wrap around the mug
- Apply a thin layer of decoupage glue to the mug using the brush
- Carefully place the paper or fabric on the mug, smoothing out any wrinkles or bubbles
- Apply another thin layer of decoupage glue on top of the paper or fabric to seal it
- Allow the glue to dry completely
- You can apply multiple layers of paper or fabric for a more dimensional effect
- (Optional) Apply a sealant on top of the decoupage to make it more resistant and shiny
You can use different types of materials to decorate your mug, such as magazine cut-outs, photographs, or even small pieces of fabric. Also, you can use different types of decoupage glue, such as mod podge or white glue. Once finished, the mug should not be used for drinking, but as a decorative piece only.
Hopefully this has filled you with inspiration on how you can upcycle an old mug. So, get creative, free up some cupboard space, and give those old mugs a new lease of life!