What is recycling? - That's behind it and this is how it works

Here you can find out what is behind recycling and how you can easily implement it. All the advantages and disadvantages of the recycling cycle

What is recycling

Author: Lara-Sophie Buckow

What is recycling?

Recycling is the processing and then the reuse of raw materials that have already been used. Recycling creates a cycle in which the material is repeatedly broken down into its individual pieces and then used for new products.

When it comes to recycling, a distinction is made between two processes: downcycling and upcycling.

  1. downcycling means that the raw material is not preserved in its original quality. There is a devaluation, as for example with waste paper, plastic or old clothes. The materials can be recycled, i.e. reused. However, the individual fibers are shorter or brittle and therefore do not represent the one hundred percent quality of a new raw material.
  2. upcycling means the exact opposite. The products remain in their original form. These only find a new purpose. You are probably familiar with bags made from old truck tarpaulin, items of clothing made from old coffee sacks or have seen glasses or vases made from old glass bottles at your friends' house. An old product is transformed into something new.

Recycling aims to reuse old materials to create new ones. No new raw materials are necessary and there is less waste. A cycle is created. You can find innovative upcycling examples of furniture here: Designers create aesthetic sustainability with upcycling furniture ideas. Why should you recycle too? Here are the top pros and cons:

Advantages of recycling:

  • Less resources are required, which protects the environment
  • The production of new products costs a lot of energy. High savings can be made here through recycling
  • The manufacture of new materials, especially in poorer countries, often has catastrophic effects on the environment due to the incorrect disposal of chemicals. These do not apply to the reuse of existing materials
  • In the optimal case, a closed cycle is created without waste or procurement of new raw materials

Disadvantages of recycling:

  • The original quality can no longer be fully achieved
  • Picking up individual waste directly from the consumer causes auto gases, which pollute the environment

Where does the recycling trend come from?

It may often seem like the process of recycling is a new trend. However, it has been around for many years. It wasn't just your grandparents who tried to reuse everything during the war due to a lack of goods and materials. Even in the Middle Ages, a lot was recycled. Even human products like hair or bones were used to make everyday objects. Recycling has its origins in agriculture. From the beginning, harvest residues, manure and liquid manure have been used to fertilize the field. So from the beginning, every farmer could have a closed one circulation create within his own yard.

Today, for the most part, we no longer have the resource shortages that we notice in our everyday lives. However, recycling is now very topical again. Because society has become aware of how wastefully we have lived in the last few decades and thus harmed ourselves and the planet. Recycling helps to procure less raw materials and to produce less waste.


Is there any point in recycling?

In Germany in particular, great importance is attached to separating different materials when disposing of them for later recycling. However, that has Federal Environment Agency found out that only a third of all waste is properly disposed of. That makes the process very difficult. The landfill cannot simply recycle the waste. Correct sorting costs a lot of time and money, which is why it often does not take place. This causes the waste of valuable resources. So it is important that every household properly separates its garbage so that recycling can take place.

The prejudice that sorting garbage is of no use anyway because it ends up being incinerated is not true. The dual systems in Germany make it possible for materials that can be recycled to be reused. Only residual waste is incinerated in Germany. According to the Öko-Institut the amount of residual waste in Germany fell by a total of 1990% between 2014 and 57. At the same time, the recycling of valuable materials has increased by a factor of 3,5. The topic of recycling is therefore picking up speed. Today, more and more companies are using recycled materials materials. This gives the materials that once ended up in your trash a new life.

Source & Copyright Bavarian State Ministry for Environment and Consumption

Recycling cycle: this is how recycling works

Before you throw something away, think about whether you can make something new out of it yourself and upcycle it yourself. Simply sew clothes on when you are no longer sitting properly, or design your own blanket or bag from individual pieces that are no longer worn. Use old cans as pen holders or flower pots. Simply repaint the old dresser and add second-hand handles to give it a new shine. There are endless possibilities to transform your old stuff into something new and useful.

If you can no longer use it, make sure that it is properly sorted. Glass is sorted by color and disposed of in the glass container. Cardboard and paper go into the waste paper bin. Packaging made of plastic, metal or composite materials belongs in the yellow sack or bin. In addition, it is very helpful for the recycling process if you separate different packaging materials from one another. This makes sorting easier later in the landfill within the automatic sorting.

You can dispose of organic waste either in the compost at home or in the organic waste bin. Take electronic devices to the recycling or recycling center, where they can be broken down into their individual parts and reused. Since 2016, shops that sell new electrical appliances have also had to accept and recycle old appliances. Should you ever be unsure how to properly dispose of a product so that it can be recycled as possible, you can use the Initiative of the dual systems visit.

Recycling works and is easier than you think

Every beginning is difficult, but it is very important that we deal with our behavior as consumers. In addition to buying sustainable and long-lasting products, correct disposal and recycling after use are also part of this. Deal with the topic bit by bit. Ask friends and acquaintances how they deal with recycling and learn from each other. This makes the whole thing a lot more fun and you make an important contribution to the circular economy.


Always informed about the latest lifestyle trends, architecture, design & interior, as well as current technologies around sustainability.

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