In modern industrial economies, the materials that go into the production, transportation, and consumption of goods are commonly either put into landfills, burned, or recycled. In each case, the material—often based on nonrenewable resources—is either wasted, or its use is downgraded (as in document paper recycled as toilet paper or tires used as playground swings, also referred to as downcycling). Upcycling denotes the concept of converting used materials at the end of their original life cycle and turning them into new materials or products of either equal or higher quality (such as creating automobile dashboards from recycled plastic bottles, furniture from discarded wood, or wallets from old tires).

The term upcycling was popularized in the United States by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book ...

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