What Is Recycling?
Recycling is about the waste recovery of waste products and their transformation as secondary raw materials. The term recycling stands for reuse or reprocessing and for bringing materials back into the cycle.
The recycling process includes the reprocessing of organic materials, but not the energy recovery of materials used as fuels. This is defined in the Circular Economy Act, as well as the waste hierarchy, which includes the recycling process.
Materials such as glass, paper, wood, plastics and metals can be reprocessed. Their functionality usually changes as a result, and new things are created.
Legally, one can only speak of recycling if the material was previously classified as waste.
The Recycling Process: The Recovery of Raw Materials
In recycling, reusable waste products and raw materials are converted into secondary raw materials through various recycling processes. In this way, raw materials are not wasted but can be reprocessed for a new purpose.
The recycling process is coordinated, disposed of and recycled through the dual system. This provides for waste products to be separated according to the type of substance during disposal. This ensures that the recycling of paper, glass, plastic and residual waste is carried out properly. In the best case, the respective recyclable materials end up in the specified bin through waste management and can then be further processed. The Green Point identifies packaging that has been disposed of via the dual system.
The subsequent recycling process differs depending on the raw material. However, we should not forget that any recycling requires energy, time and money. The best waste is, therefore, that which does not need to be recycled.
Downcycling and Upcycling
If a recyclable product loses its quality during the recycling process, it is referred to as downcycling. Downcycling is nevertheless important for the environment. Even if the products are of lower quality, this process is still more sustainable than manufacturing products from new raw materials. This conserves resources, and the environment is relieved. However, downcycling only makes sense if the production’s energy expenditure is in proportion to its quality.
Particularly plastic, aluminium and paper are subject to downcycling in the recycling process.
Through the upcycling process, the raw material is reprocessed and generates added value through material upgrading. Upcycling products are sustainable if they make old products usable for longer and prevent the need to manufacture a new product. Long-lasting products are particularly sustainable if neither something has to be manufactured nor reprocessed.
Generally speaking, upcycling is most sustainable when like is made into alike. So it’s a case of turning plastic bottles into plastic bottles, and fabric into the fabric.