What is downcycling?

Day 301 – So, when an aluminum can is recycled it can be turned into another aluminum can. The same can be said about a glass jar. However, when it comes to many other products, they are usually turned into something with less value and quality. For example plastic can be recycled into fleece or polyester.

We have all heard about plastic milk jugs being turned into park benches. As much as a park bench is a nice thing to have, we need to do better in creating a circular economy. We can’t continue making more park benches, because we can not curb our need for virgin plastics.

Downcycling is mainly a problem due to misinterpretation of the public. Many people assume that plastic, like glass or paper, can be recycled over and over again forever without losing any quality. The truth is that plastic is continually downcycled until it is rendered completely useless for recycling. After that, in most cases, it winds up in a landfill, where it slowly breaks down into microplastics and emits methane.” – GreenMatters

It’s important that we realize that many items, especially those with plastic are not 100% recyclable. Far too often we interpret the term “recycle” as “completely recyclable”. However, that is not the case and we need to start rethinking the materials we purchase.

Now the opposite to downcycling is upcycling. This is the process of giving something more value and quality then it originally had. A great place to see examples of upcycled items is the Facebook group “Upcylceit” Here you will see amazing transformations of items that were on their way to the landfill. However, some have taken the time to make these items even better than before. Check it out and get inspired!

Tomorrow, time to celebrate our feline friends.

World’s First Second-Hand Mall

Day 227 – Imagine a mall full of stores offering merchandise that is all second-hand. Aisles and shelves full of items given up by their original owners, but still in good condition and ready to be useful for someone else. The U.S. has stores, like Goodwill, that offer second-hand items for the fraction of their original cost. However, in Sweden, they have created an entire mall dedicated to keeping reusable items out of the landfill.

In Eskilstuna, Sweden, a one-of-kind shopping experience is happening at ReTuna. Not only are they selling second-hand merchandise, but also upcyled items, as well. Filled with 14 second-hand shops, a conference space, and an eco-friendly cafe, ReTuna is a shopping space, but also a place of education and inspiration. It houses a design school, where students learn how to incorporate recycled materials into their designs. There are also art installations (made from recycled materials) which fill the space between the boutiques and cafe. Shops in the mall offer fashion, children’s goods, technology and more.

What makes ReTuna different is that it’s located next to the local recycling center, where the goods to be repurposed are collected. The collection station, Returen, receives, sorts through and distributes the goods to the appropriate stores inside the mall according to the assortment description in every shop’s business plan. The shop then sorts through the goods again, and repairs and upcycles things, prices them and puts them up for sale.

In 2018, Retuna sold second-goods worth $1.3 million. If Sweden can do it, there is no reason why this business model couldn’t work everywhere. It’s not only good for business, but it’s good for the planet!

To watch a video about ReTuna, click HERE.

Tomorrow, recycling your mattress just got easier.