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the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality

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Downcycling Gives Trash Another Chance at Life

  • Mar 11, 2010
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many products get downcycled to Plastic Code #7Downcycling means the reuse of a product for alternative purposes or the recycling of material into lesser quality. Most recycled industrial nutrients (materials) lose viability or value in the process of recycling. This means they can only be used in a degraded form for components other than their original use.  This may sound bad, but at least the materials are being reused and not thrown away.

Some examples of downcycling:

  • recycling plastics turns it into lesser quality plastic, resulting in a higher plastic identification code
  • white writing paper is often downcycled into materials such as cardboard and cannot be used to create more premium writing paper
  • re-using defective car batteries for lower-power applications
  • using rag towels for other cleaning purposes
  • often times, when people upcycle, individually downcycled parts are often involved
  • finding alternate purposes for obsolete technology (e.g. using an older computer to cue of a party playlist of music while a newer computer is available for everyday purposes

Downcycling is another way to avoid sending something to a landfill and finding a way to reuse or recycle it again. Downcycling can be eco-friendly and reduce your carbon footprint. The term downcycling is not too well known, but a green idea to be mentioned.

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April 28, 2010
Clay, thanks for this contribution! I think you would be interested in 'Recycling Everything', -- a self-contained system that cycles materials within it, without the need for extraction of raw materials or landfills. The materials themselves have to be engineered to be recyclable. Right now, this is in the concept stage, but my organization is beginning to push to make it a reality. Please check us out at www.rebk.org.
March 11, 2010
Great review. The process of recycling isn't always as efficient as a lot of people might think (I used to think they used plastic water bottles to make more plastic water bottles), but it's better than having your trash end up in a landfill.
March 11, 2010
Right. Recycling isn't perfect. It would be great if recycling could solve more problems, but physically many things aren't possible. So any way to reuse waste and make something useful that doesn't go into landfills work for me. Thanks.
About the reviewer
Clay Miller ()
Ranked #51
Graphic designer/illustrator and owner of Miller Creative Designs, LLC who on Lunch.com likes to shareinsight on Greenand health insight, ideas and other tidbits.Creator/writer of Ways2GoGreen .com& … more
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Downcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. The goal of downcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials, reduce consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution and water pollution, and lower greenhouse gas emissions (though re-use of tainted toxic chemicals for other purposes can have the opposite effect) as compared to virgin production. A clear example is plastic recycling, which turns the material into lower grade plastics.
The term downcycling was used by Reiner Pilz of Pilz GmbH in an interview by Thornton Kay of Salvo in 1994. 
Characteristics of downcycling are lower reusability (in comparison with "classic" recycling), lower amount of iterations inside the cycle with each iteration of downcycling, quality of downcycled things deteriorates and after the last iteration the product has been downcycled to the par of general waste.
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