Perhaps the classic example of the mindset required for upcycling is demonstrated with glass. You see, glass is as good as infinitely recyclable. It can go round and around and around without losing quality. Well, subject to colour requirements. And recycling glass saves energy over making glass from scratch
Since glass is recyclable, and since it has strong environmental benefits, people assume it must be recycled. In many places, this can happen. Not in Perth. In Perth, the closest plant able to convert glass back to glass is in Adelaide. Before glass can go into furnaces, it has to be sorted to remove ceramics. There is a size below which this is not viable. Glass coming from Perth (generally by rail) gets ground down in transit, exacerbating the already significant losses to "fines". The end result is expensive and unviable, leading to large stockpiles of glass around the place.
An attempt to resolve the problem was taken in 2010 when a multi-million dollar grant was provided to Colmax Glass to establish a glass plant in Perth. This all looked fantastic at the time, even if the launch was a few months too early, but the plant has stuttered since, never quite meeting expectations. The point is not whether Colmax is doing the right thing or not, but the approach. Having decided glass will be recycled, money then proceeds to be thrown at the problem leading to almost inevitable failure. It starts from the wrong way around, and never catches up with itself.
What would be wrong with starting a small plant servicing a small market? It could build upon its successes, taking more product in as its markets grow. The point is so important it needs reiterating: taking more product in as its markets grow. Notice the sequence - markets grow and thus product is received. Scale up with the markets.
Colmax or otherwise, upcycling does not work in isolation of markets. It does not try to "solve problems", but instead services markets. "Solving problems" drives a project down the value chain, servicing markets lifts it up. "Solving problems" risks ignoring local quirks, creating structures so big that they can only fail. Upcycling is niche, it is clever, and it will be the way of the future.