"Upcycling: Recycling disposes of things that might (repeat, might) be reconstituted rather than left to rot; upcycling gives objects a new use. Its American advocates cite an example of chair cushions made out of old ties, which doesn't bode well. For examples of less frightening upcycling, visit etsy.com. The concept is popular with Imbys, who favour anything local, until, of course, it threatens their space and privacy, whereupon they become the far more familiar Nimbys."
This quote comes from The Independent on Sunday's 2009 Buzzword Glossary. I think the author's attitude to a cushion of neckties is similar to mine toward railroad spikes as yard art, which I covered in a previous post. While I sympathise to his position, I also think he's not giving the best possible example of upcycling. Upcycling at its best goes like this: I have a need that needs to be fulfilled; I have some existing resources I could apply toward fulfilling that need; if I use a bit of creativity and possibly wood glue I can avoid a trip to Argos. Ideally, upcycling doesn't involve using stuff for the sake of using stuff - instead it should join resources and needs with maximum efficiency.