As there are many shades of green, the same applies to recycling. There is downcycling, recycling and upcycling.

I think those terms were used by Reiner Pilz first. Most of the time we are doing the lowest level: downcycling, ie your soft drink bottles are not turned into soft drink bottles any more but into some inferior product. And that usually happens only once until that product gets to the end of its life and then the final destination will be incinerator at its best or the tip. So in summary downcycling is actually a process of extending the life of a raw material but the destination is pre-programmed.
While we can split atoms and fly to the moon, we seem not to be able to separate the dirt and impurities from a for example soft drink bottle and turn it back into a food grade soft drink bottle. And that is probably the case because the cost would be too high – or at least higher than digging, drilling or fracking for new resources. That is the sad reality.
So at this stage to me recycling is an attempt and we should not be distracted from the real issue: WASTE. Simply avoid it and you will need less recycling – for that is downcycling at this stage.

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