The UK’s Upcycling Index

It’s estimated that around 22 million pieces of furniture end up in landfill every year, and that just under a third of Brits throw away items that could have been re-used, sold or donated. Nothing upsets us more than unnecessary household waste – big or small – but there is a solution.

Thankfully, the 'upcycling' trend, which involves the re-use of old homewares by means of small DIY tweaks, continues to increase in popularity. Not only does this help reduce your carbon footprint, but it’s cost-effective and trendy too. The word ‘upcycling’ has just under four million tags on Instagram, and our research shows that since 2018, searches for upcycling have almost doubled across the UK.

But how well equipped is your area to ‘furniture-flip’? Hoping to help Brits with their next upcycling project, we’ve analysed (per capita) the number of furniture repair and upholstery shops, DIY stores and antique shops there are across a number of UK towns and cities. Our study also factors in how many second-hand furniture online listings there are per location, all of which when combined, reveal how your locality ranks for the UK’s best equipped locations for the nation’s ‘upcyclers’.

The Top Upcycling Capitals

So which towns and cities have the advantage when it comes to upcycling? The picturesque town of Bath comes top of the list, boasting the most furniture and upholstery shops per capita and the second most antique shops.

Second is Blackpool. Like Bath, the town scores particularly well for both furniture repair and antique shop listings: placing 6th for both categories.

Completing the top three is another Western town, Hereford. Unlike its predecessors, Hereford’s strengths are its number of DIY and home improvement stores and its number of antique shops – scoring in third position for both.

Rounding off the top five is Carlisle, in the North West, and Worcester, in the West Midlands, respectively.

Some cities were less ‘handy’ than others. Leicester, Luton and Cardiff came bottom of the index, so residents here may need to be a little more creative with the options they have to hand.

Top 10 Upcyling Cities

Winners by Category

If your goal this year is to reduce and reuse your household waste but you don’t have the time for new handles or paint jobs, then finding a trusty local furniture repair specialist or upholsterer is the next best sustainable solution. Bath, Norwich and Edinburgh have the most listed furniture repair and upholstery shops per capita.

Or, perhaps you’re a DIY whizz who knows their Allen key from their box wrench. If you want the satisfaction of doing up your own furniture, then Carlisle, Lisburn and Hereford are the go-to destinations.

But you can’t furniture-flip without the furniture. For those willing to spend a little more for a prestigious piece of history, Carlisle, Bath and Hereford have the most antique shops per capita. Alternatively, if you like to shop online, Warrington, Woking and Blyth have the most second-hand furniture listings per capita – ideal if you want to browse for a bargain.

Top Upcycling Cities by Category

Trendy Transformations

But some regions are jumping onto the trend more than others. Search terms around upcycling have seen the highest three year increase in Telford, where searches boomed by 500%. Swansea are also getting stuck in, with an increase of 410% since 2018, followed by Dundee with an increase of 275%.

TIP: Taking care of your furniture by using eco-friendly cleaning products to keep it in sparkling condition is a great way to preserve your favourite pieces for years to come.

We hope this tool inspires you to re-use your shabby and turn it to chic, to make do and mend that tired cabinet, and give a new lease of life to your homewares this year (without harming the planet).