The Challenges of Scaling Upcycling Businesses — and Possible Solutions
Upcycling is one of the newer ways to save the environment while still creating useful products. In this piece, upcycling will be explained: what it is, the challenges of scaling up an operation, and some solutions to help upcycling operations.
What Is Upcycling?
Upcycling is a new iteration of recycling. It entails taking discarded objects or material and reusing it to make a new, higher-quality product. An example would be using discarded plastic to create a luxury plastic comb.
The idea has become more popular in culture, but it has a long way to go before it becomes the industry norm. The same was true when recycling was first introduced — but in less than a decade, the idea caught on and it’s now in people’s everyday conversation.
Once the general public gains a better understanding of upcycling, the same might be true. The only problem is: How do upcycling operations spread the word? The best way to do this is by scaling up their operations and becoming bigger players in the global market.
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What Are the Challenges and Solutions of an Upcycling Business?
Of course, some unique challenges come with scaling up an upcycling business.
The Consumer’s Mentality
The biggest challenge is dealing with the negative stigma that attaches upcycling to the idea of low-quality products. The truth is that a repurposed product can be of much higher quality than the original product. It’s a mix of media and consumer thoughts that drive the wrong notion. The first step would be to educate consumers and teach them about the powers of upcycling.
The simple answer is to create a product that speaks for itself. Upcycling businesses should focus on making high-quality products that are the best in the market. This way, there’s no need to convince a consumer that upcycling is legitimate.
After a consumer falls in love with the product, then they’ll learn about the rich history of the materials used to make it. The best way to change their mindset is to first introduce them to a product that they love.
Finding High-Quality Raw Material
Another issue for an upcycling business is simply finding the recycled and discarded material. Certain companies will sell recycled material to upcycling businesses, but it might be hard to screen the incoming material for quality.
If the discarded material isn’t high-quality to begin with, upcycling becomes a real challenge. Once a reliable vendor is found, the next problem is getting more raw material from them as the upcycling business scales up.
As a product is upcycled, the quality of all the raw material comes into play. If even a percentage of the recycled material is low quality, the whole batch could be unusable in an upcycling operation.
The ultimate solution is to carefully screen and vet the providers of the material. Some upcycling facilities will sort their own material in a makeshift recycling area of their building. By creating a strong relationship with a reliable vendor, the operation can make sure that incoming material is high-quality.
Additionally, the upcycling operation should employ some quality checks when it receives the material. Testing for strength, durability, and material characteristics of the raw material is essential.
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Many consumers don’t even know what upcycling is. For this reason, upcycling businesses have to go to extra lengths in their marketing department.
First, they have to explain what their product is and what the need is. Then, they have to sell why their product is better than those made by other upcyclers. This added level of marketing requires a lot of thought and strategy.
Just because the marketing is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Simple additions to the brand’s story and packaging can explain the power of upcycling. Using symbols that are synonymous with eco-friendly green products is a good idea here.
Marketing specifically for upcycling customers will narrow the focus of the operation too much. The product should be marketed for a general audience, with information included about the power of upcycling. In other words, consumers don’t need to know the ins and outs of upcycling to recognize that a product has merit.
It’s important to acknowledge how time-consuming the upcycling process is. Making a standard product is hard enough, but upcycling businesses have many other hurdles to jump.
Most operations need to employ quality checks at nearly every stage of the product’s life. From when the raw material is brought in to when the product leaves the factory, there are countless checks for quality that need to be done.
The only real solution here is to streamline the process and have the team go through proper training. If everyone becomes an expert at their individual task, they’ll finish their portion quicker. That leads to a more expeditious operation overall.
Space for the Operation
Running an upcycling operation takes a lot of space. As mentioned before, there are additional quality checks, the potential need for a recycling station, and bulk raw material coming in. There’s no avoiding how much physical space is required for an upcycling operation.
There are two major solutions to consider here. Companies that upcycle for profit need to keep their overhead low. They might opt to open their facility in an area that costs less to rent. By having less expensive property costs, they can expand and scale up more easily.
The other solution is to streamline the production process. A careful building layout will help minimize how much space is wasted in a facility. This is especially important for operations that can’t choose their location. This might require an engineer to come in and assist.
Scaling an upcycling operation isn’t as easy as scaling other companies. That shouldn’t stop anyone from getting into the business, though. As long as the business is built on passion, there will be a great chance for success. Miniwiz offers a number of upcycling solutions that can help with your effort to scale up your upcycling business.