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Downcycling - Ace Recycling Wood Chipsdowncycling construction debris into wood chips for mulch and particleboard | Ace Recycling

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DOWNCYCLING /daʊnˈsaɪklɪŋ/


Downcycling is the process of converting waste into new materials of lesser quality.  It is characterized by lower reusability and lower value of output, and the decreasing quality and value of the material after it passes through each iteration of downcycling.  After enough iterations, a downcycled material is unable to be reprocessed and becomes waste.

In most downcycling processes, a material with lesser monetary value as well as lesser embodied energy is produced.  This means that downcycling is inherently wasteful of energy and capital.  Often, downcycled products still have potential uses in their non-recycled form.  Of course, downcycling is much less wasteful than throwing things into landfills.

Some examples include:

  • Breaking apart a computer hard drive to gather its rare-earth metals
  • Increasing the plastic number
  • Cutting old clothes into rags
  • Cutting logs into firewood rather than larger pieces to use in a wider variety of applications.
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