Do you know what’s the difference between recyclable and recycled? Upcycling and recycling? And what are their advantages and disadvantages? What are the 3R’s? And why some people talk about four Rs? To celebrate World Day of Environmental Education (26 January), this post would like to provide you information on topics related to sustainability.

We will define the most common terms linked to the recycling world: recyclable, recycled, downcycling, recycling and upcycling. We will also talk about the three sustainable Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. And the fourth R which was promoted by Greenpeace: Rethink.

Let’s clarify the terms linked to recycling

Recyclable or recycled?

Are they the same? What are their differences? The little rubbish bin that appears on the labels of certain products, does it mean they are manufactured with recycled materials?

Recyclable products are those which once discarded can be used to manufacture new products. However, a recyclable product does not mean it has been previously recycled. If the plastic, cardboard or the material used to manufacture the product has never been used before, it means it can be a recyclable product, not a recycled product.

Recycled products are those which had a different life to the actual one. It means, in the past were used to create a recyclable product. At the end of the life of the recyclable product, the latter is recycled and rejoins the market as a different product (or products). The recycled process of the cardboard, metal and plastic is the easiest one, so probably the recycled product you find is made from one or more of these materials.

Products which at the same time are recyclable and recycled are part of what is known as the Circular Economy.

Upcycling, downcycling and recycling

If you are interested in the sustainable world you may have already heard these terms. All of them are different but have very similar meanings at the same time.

Upcycling means transforming waste in higher quality products. This process does not need energy nor other manufacture processes. Products obtained thanks to upcycling are particularly beautiful because they have an important design work.

Downcycling means transforming waste in lower quality products with respect to the original material.

Recycling is the process by which a discarded product is converted into the same product. In the processes of downcycling and recycling no new materials are used so waste is reduced. It’s downside? The energetic waste.

The 3R rule, do you carry it out?

The 3Rs is a rule thought to reduce the volume of waste. It is a set of guidelines which help looking after the environment and educating more responsible consumers, therefore, helping to reduce our CO2 footprint. If you would like to contribute to a healthy nature, join the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!

  1. Reduce

Reduce means decreasing the volume of what you buy and consume, it implies the product as well as the packaging. Careful with one single used product. Do you know that what you use only once, can take years, centuries and even millennia to biodegrade (to disappear from the planet)! So think twice before you buy it!

  1. Reuse

Before throwing things to the rubbish bin, use them as much as possible. Try repairing and giving a second life to products and their packaging so to reduce your waste. For example, you can reuse crystal bottles for a bouquet or plastic bags for the rubbish. Imagination is key in reusing! Where some people see waste, others see materials for creating beautiful decoration objects. Check on the internet and social networks for inspiration or just discover your wild imagination! You will have a great time, you will save money and the planet will be very thankful!

  1. Recycle

Once you have used your objects as many times as possible, it’s time to recycle them. It means put them through a certain process, so they can be reused. By recycling you help reducing the use of new raw materials, meaning less waste for the future.

In the next few weeks we will publish a new post about the importance of packaging. We will explain why it is key to sum up to the 3R’s rule. For the moment, enjoy this interesting article on what to do to look after the planet.

Rethink, the 4th R

Lastly, we talk about the fourth R which is not included in the recycling theory: Rethink. It is linked to the built-in obsolescence of electrical and informatic products. As you may know, the design of these type of products is sometimes done in order to reduce their life cycle to a few years forcing consumers to replace them. And, repairing them is often difficult. The result is huge waste and environmental harm. A little French Association known by its French initials HOP is fighting against this, read the article. The head of the group, Samuel Sauvage, is a young frenchman who, as you, dreamed and is fighting for a more sustainable life!

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