Downcycling is the process of harvesting unused products and using them to produce new items of lesser quality. While some materials can repeatedly be re-used, some slowly breakdown with each time they go through the recycling process. This is referred to "downcyclin"g for that reason. Additionally, some experts argue that in all cases, recycling is downcycling. Nevertheless, downcycling continues the idea of reducing the need for accessing virgin materials excessively.
An example of downcycling can be seen in the case of plastics. Certain plastics break down as they are processed for reuse and therefore are used to make lesser quality items like fleece or siding. While the quality of the plastic is less than it was originally, it still lessens the need to access more virgin materials that would otherwise be used.