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Definition

downcycling

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Downcycling is a recycling practice that involves breaking an item down into its component elements or materials. Once the constituent elements or materials are recovered, they are reused if possible but usually as a lower-value product. Ideally, only elements that cannot be reused are discarded. The goal of downcycling is reducing waste and improving the efficiency of resource use.

Upcycling, another variation on recycling, involves the creation of usable products from waste materials or unwanted items.  Upcycling is considered preferable to downcycling because it adds value to the original item rather than breaking it down. The practice of avoiding the acquisition of unnecessary items that will eventually become waste is known as precycling.

This was last updated in December 2012

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