FOCUS SESSION III / 12 October 2023 / 17:00 - 18:30
Reuse, upcycling, downcycling, sidecycling, bicycling: where to go?
Jurate Kumpiene - Luleå University of Technology (SE)
Uta Jenull - Montanuniversität Leoben (AT)
Timo Lange - Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (DE)
Akira Otsuki - Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (CL)
Bettina Rutrecht - K1-MET GmbH (AT)
Stefan Salhofer - BOKU University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (AT)
What sets upcycling, downcycling, and recycling apart? While upcycling and downcycling fall under the umbrella of recycling, they do not all hold the same value.
When we transform discarded items into something of higher or comparable value, we "upcycle." Conversely, when a material or product is converted into something of lesser value, it is "downcycled". For example, surplus materials can be upcycled to create a product with greater value than the original components. In contrast, downcycling comes into play when waste materials are repurposed into something of reduced value. Plastic recycling often falls into the downcycling category as the end product tends to be of lower quality.
Preferably, upcycling outperforms downcycling due to its ability to extend the lifespan of materials. The creation of new materials necessitates substantial resources such as water and energy. By prolonging the use of existing materials, the requirement for new material production is postponed or even avoided. As a result, valuable resources are preserved.
Both upcycling and downcycling are integral to a "closed-loop" manufacturing system. Nonetheless, the extent to which various industries operate within such a system remains a pertinent question.
What is needed to facilitate the true “closed-loop” development? What good examples are already there?