The term downcycling was popularized by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Downcycling 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.
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 is a green idea to be mentioned.