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Upcycling, Downcycling, Wishcycling are Recycling Terms You Should Know

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

All humans make waste as we consume goods and materials. In today’s world we have options for what to do with that waste. It can be recycled, upcycled, downcycled and often is wishcycled. What does it all mean? Recycling terms can be confusing, but they don’t have to be. The following blog post explains how our cycles of consumption have given birth to new types of use and reuse such as upcycling, downcycling and wishcycling.

Food scraps, empty bottles, old newspapers, demolition debris, batteries and just about anything you can think of will eventually find a final resting place here on earth. Much of it will end up in landfills where waste is abandoned to sit for thousands of years in unwanted tombs of trash.

As the dangers of landfills have become better understood, modern society has developed many ways to transform waste into raw materials suitable for reuse in manufacturing as well as imaginative new uses. These systems have similar names to best describe them.

Recycling Terms You Should Know

UpcyclingUpcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. Local examples include Ben Logan Middle School’s artistic sculptures made with all varieties of discarded trash such as bottle caps, laundry detergent bottles, plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. Additionally, the Solid Waste District headquarters is home to a large wall mural depicting the ocean made from local trash (shown above). Learn more about how you can use everyday trash to upcycle your old stuff.

Downcycling – This practice involves breaking an item down into its component elements or materials. Once the constituent elements or materials are recovered, they are reused. For example, locally, Logan County Solid Waste District’s electronics recycling program collects electronics which contain composite materials including plastics, metals and rare elements for disassembly and reuse.

Wishcycling – Wishcycling happens when well-intentioned, possibly excited first-time recyclers wish and hope they could recycle everything, figuring it will get sorted out at the recycling plant. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Items that don’t belong in recycling often slow the process or injure workers. It’s important to follow your community’s recycling rules.

Recycling – the general process to gather materials from the waste stream and process them into forms suitable for re-use. In Logan County, we operate 16 Recycling and Pay-As-You-Throw drop-off centers that are well-lit and open 24/7. Most of the recyclables we receive go on to have a second life. Glass bottles that leave our materials recycling facility (MRF) go to Rumpke Recycling to be made into new glass bottles. Paper we collect is made into insulation fiber. Cardboard is made into more cardboard. Plastic can become drainage tiles, wheel stabilizers and parking blocks. Many plastic and aluminum beverage bottles and cans are recycled back into bottles and cans in as little as 60 days.

Learn more about how to recycle in Logan County. When you recycle more, you save on your Pay-As-You-Throw trash costs. Find one of our 16 Recycling and Pay-As-You-Throw drop-off centers near you.

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