The A - Z to Eco: C & D
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Date: 22 July, 2011


'In downcycling (also known as downstream recycling), materials are recycled into lower quality products.'

Working our way through from A to Z of the environment, Suzanne Elvidge continues the series with a look at C and D.

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C is for…

…carbon footprint.

Your carbon footprint is the sum of all your activities that generate greenhouse gases, and it is calculated in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent .

There are calculators to work out your carbon footprint, and the UK Carbon Footprint Project allows you to put yourself on the UK Carbon Footprint Map.

The Carbon Trust has introduced carbon reduction labels to help people buy lower carbon footprint products .

D is for….

downcycling . In downcycling (also known as downstream recycling), materials are recycled into lower quality products.

For example, when plastic is recycled, it has to be broken down, and what results is made into lower-grade products – hence plastic bottles end up as fleece for jackets and duvets, yogurt pots end up as coasters, and other plastic ends up as wastepaper bins.

Recycled plastic is often not recyclable, so will eventually end up in landfill.

Unlike plastic, glass and metal can be recycled indefinitely without losing quality. Researchers are developing methods to make plastic fully recyclable.

However, until then, given the choice, buy products in glass bottles or jars, or metal cans, and use a reusable cup rather than a disposable plastic one.

If using plastic is unavoidable, find somewhere to recycle it – recycling is still preferable to plastic pollution and landfill.

Sometimes downcycling is inevitable – for example, if toner cartridges cannot be refilled, it is hard to recycle them because of the toxins they contain – but they can be recycled into so-called plastic lumber.

It may not be pretty, but it’s useful for fencing. As an aside, Christian Aid accepts printer cartridges for recycling, and these are reused wherever possible.

You’ll have to wait until later in the year to learn about precycling and upcycling!

Read the first article in the series

Suzanne Elvidge is a freelance writer and the Surefish Ethical Living Editor



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