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Upcycling, Recycling, Downcycling... what's the difference?

Upcycling, Recycling, Downcycling... what's the difference?

Barbara Clement

Have you noticed the phrases "upcycling" and "recycling" are often used interchangeably? However, they don't mean the same.

Recycling, upcycling and downcycling symbols

Upcycling, Recycling, and Downcycling symbols. Photo Credit: Galya


Recycling

By now, you probably know that recycling is the process of collecting waste materials and processing them to obtain new items. Few materials, though, can be recycled seamlessly. You may recycle glass over and over without losing its purity or quality. Other materials, instead, cannot be recycled infinitely. And here is where "downcycling" come into play.

What is Downcycling?

As the word suggests, downcycling decreases the quality and value of the final products that contain recycled content. It is a process that consists of breaking down an object into its component materials. Once recovered, these materials can be reused for new products. Let's take, for example, plastic.

Until not long ago, people thought plastic could be recycled repeatedly without altering its quality. The truth is, with each recycling iteration, plastic becomes entirely useless for recycling at some point.

Video: Plastic Pollution Coalition - OPEN YOUR EYES - Overview Narrated by Jeff Bridges


Eventually, plastics end up in landfills, where they break down into tiny pieces (microplastics) that pollute the soil. Moreover, they emit one of the most harmful greenhouse gases: methane. Also, microplastics enter animals and human organisms through the water supply.  They have been found even in the placentas of unborn babies after their mothers consumed or breathed in these plastic particles. Summing up, plastic is not and will never be eco-friendly.

Upcycling

Upcycling involves reusing and repurposing an item that would otherwise end in the trash and transforming it into something new and more valuable. For example, with enough creativity, an old bathtub can be transformed into fancy furniture. An antique chest can become a vintage coffee table. Many artists source these little treasures in the trash and create magnificent pieces of art from unwanted items.

Recycling and Upcycling: an olf bathtub transformed into a sofa and an armchair

Upcycling means repurposing something and making it more valuable. Photo: Pinterest

 

Similarly, you can collect waste glass jars and transform them into household items such as vases, storage containers, and planters.


⁠How are bottles upcycled?

Neutrall upcycles at scale: it rescues waste glass bottles, cut them, and transform them into elegant, sustainable drinking glasses. ⁠ 

Check out this video to understand the process!

 

If you liked this blog post, please share it with your friends! If you have further questions, suggestions, or comments, you can contact us or email us at barbara@neutrall.us

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