Upcycling, a New Trend in Sustainability

With sustainability and environmental protection bigger consumer concerns than ever, manufacturers are constantly looking for new ways to create sustainable claims while also being socially responsible. Upcycling, while not a new concept, has recently made its way to the food and beverage industry where it is gaining much traction with environmentally-conscious consumers. Join us at Advanced Biotech as we take a look at what upcycling is and how it’s being applied to food products.


What is Upcycling?

            Upcycling is a term that refers to the utilization of discarded materials in the creation of something of higher-quality than the original. For example, if one were to take old newspapers and use them to create a biodegradable planter or artisanal greeting cards that would be upcycling. In terms of food production, upcycling refers to converting ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products. Not only does this prolong the life of discarded food but also reduces the amount of food waste.


Does Upcycling Make a Difference?

            According to RTS “The United States is the global leader in food waste, with Americans discarding nearly 40 million tons of food every year. That’s 80 billion pounds of food and equates to more than $161 billion2, approximately 219 pounds of waste per person and 30-40 percent of the US food supply. Most of this food is sent to landfills; food is the single largest component taking up space inside US landfills. In fact, it makes up 22 percent of municipal solid waste.” From the fresh, clean water wasted growing crops that, ultimately, are not used due to imperfections to the excess greenhouse gases required to break it down, food waste profoundly affects the environment. More and more, companies are looking for ways to reinvent and utilize these resources rather than letting it go to waste. So, yes! Upcycling has a very positive effect on the environment and also works to create awareness and eventually eliminate excess food waste.


Innovative Products

            There are many companies across the US and the globe working to create meaningful change through upcycling. Based in the US, NETZERO works with large and small-scale farmers to re-harvest food byproducts and develop new innovative ingredients. Some projects include upcycling egg shells or calcium and spent grain for fiber and protein. Pure Plus, also in the US, turns imperfect fruits and vegetables into a powdered sugar substitute that can be integrated into food and beverage products. Upcycled products are becoming popular choices to stock in supermarkets and for those concerned with environmental protection, sustainability, and the reduction of harmful food waste.


Everything from wine to dried fruit to alternative sweeteners are getting an upcycled makeover as environmental preservation is more important than ever. Manufacturers looking to make innovative sustainability claims should consider utilizing upcycling in order to satisfy consumers’ demands for transparency and social responsibility.