Not all 'cycling' is created equal. While we might use terms like up-cycling, recycling and down-cycling interchangeably, they all vary each in terms of how effective & beneficial they are to us and the environment.

 In order of most to least effective are up-cycling, recycling, and down-cycling.

 Here’s a quick definition and example.


Recycling remakes a material or item into something of roughly the same type and value as it was originally by placing it back into the original lifecycle it came from.

Aluminium, and glass are materials that can be recycled infinitely holding their value and quality whereas plastics can loose both.


Down-cycling is the process of breaking down materials to their base form to create new products of lesser value and quality. This is the least preferred option although still better than letting items go directly to landfill.


Turning Plastic bottles into clothing, rather than bottles again, which ultimately bleed micro-plastics or get discarded back into the environment.


Up-cycling means transforming a discarded material into something of greater value by repurposing it. This is strongly aligned with the circular economy, where materials are constantly reused and not wasted.


Turning Plastics into a new bike or a bench for public consumption over the long-term or by using waste products from recipes to add to another meal.

Good to know

  • Make sure when recycling, your products are loose, clean and dry
  • Remember, it's refuse first, then reduce, reuse, lastly, recycle.
  • Aluminium and glass are always the better options over plastic in terms of recycling rates.

Top Tip for Recycling: A great resource is the A-Z guide to Recycling which will tells you exactly what to do with each item in your home found by clicking 'here'.


Cathal O'Reilly



Written by Cathal O Reilly

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