For manufacturers and producers, time is money and haste makes waste. But what if time was invested to transform trash into treasure? While recycling is the de facto choice for circularity, many companies are turning to “upcycling” and “downcycling” to reduce burgeoning waste management fees and cut their carbon footprint.
In American manufacturing, operations make margins by making haste. And all along the products’ life cycles—design to production to consumption—that urgency creates costly waste. It’s no secret that waste is a problem for the United States. Despite accounting for only 4% of the global population, the U.S. accounts for nearly 12% of global waste production and recycles significantly less (about 32%) than any other developed nation. Part of our shortcomings have stemmed from a myopic view of recycling. While the most common form of recycling sees products broken down and formed into the same or similar products, the practices of “upcycling” and “downcycling” have become creative and sustainable ways to employ valuable materials and preserve natural resources. From residual food and textile scraps to plastic bags and old cardboard, the second life for many materials is a fork in the road—and, up or down, both lead to an opportunity to drastically reduce waste.read more