A few years ago, Michael Braungart and William McDonough introduced the concept of a "cradle to cradle" - as opposed to a cradle to grave - design process.
In short, cradle to cradle moves away from the typical man-made linear manufacturing process where raw materials are plundered, processed, then thrown "away" (wherever that might be) to a system of sustainability where waste becomes the foundation for next generation products.
An example: the ball point pen when spent becomes a plant fertilizer spike.
Sambo Mockbee, an American Architect with Mississippi roots, showed the world how to recycle, or upcycle if you will, thrown-away materials into beautiful buildings.
Check out this informative Australian-produced documentary film on the Waste Equals Food concept.