LOHAS TRENDS

Recycle or Downcycle?

Monday, August 30, 2010 by

Provided by Green America

Even though we may toss all sorts of materials in our recycling bins, not all of it is recycled into the same kind of product. Much of it is, instead, downcycled into a lesser kind of product, which often cannot be recycled again.

When you “recycle”    

This is what happens to it          

It may become       

So is it recycled, or downcycled?

 


Aluminum 

It’s still aluminum.

 

Cans, auto parts, cookware.

Recycled! You can recycle it again.

 

steel can
    Steel     

It’s still steel.

 

Steel cans, beams, and more.

 

Recycled! You can recycle it again.

 


Glass

It’s still glass.

Bottles, tiles, marbles, asphalt,

and more.

 

Recycled! You can recycle it again.

 


office paper
        Office paper               

The fibers shorten every time you put them through the recycling process, until they cannot be reused.

Recycled content paper,

grocery bags, cardboard, newspapers,

magazines, egg cartons,

home insulation.

 

Downcycled. May go through 6-12 more cycles, and when the fibers

become too short to reuse, the remainder is landfilled.

 


newspaper
Newsprint 

See above.

Currogated cardboard, paperboard.

Downcycled. May go through a few more cycles, and when the fibers become too short to reuse, the remainder is landfilled.



Plastic #1 
(PET or PETE)s

It’s turned into a new

substance that’s not recyclable.

 

“Fleece” jackets, carpet,

fractional component of more #1 plastic.

Downcycled. After one cycle, it generally

is no longer recyclable and then is landfilled when thrown away.

 


HDPE Plastics
Plastics #2 (HDPE)

It’s turned into a new

substance that’s not recyclable.

Railroad ties.

 

Downcycled. After one cycle, it’s no

longer recyclable and is then landfilled

when thrown away.

 



Plastics #3–7

These are rarely recyclable,

unless the manufacturer makes a special effort to take its products back. (See. p. 36 for

how Stonyfield Farms and Recycline  take back and recycle their #5 plastic products.)

 

Trash.

 

Rarely recycled nor downcycled. Even

when recycling programs accept these

plastics, they are most likely doing so

to simplify the program for customers,

and will send these plastics to landfills

or incinerators.

 



Plastic Bags

Some stores accept them

for “recycling”—they may actually be recycled, or, most likely, they may be shipped overseas

and incinerated or landfilled.

 

Plastic lumber ... or trash.

 

Sometimes downcycled, but most

often, plastic bags are shipped overseas,

where they’re incinerated or landfilled.

Make a commitment today to avoid

plastic bags and bring your own cloth

bags when you shop.

 

For more information on recycling and other green living and business resources visit www.greenamericatoday.org