To reuse is to use an item more than once. This includes conventional reuse where the item is used again for the same function, and new-life reuse where it is used for a different function. In contrast, recycling is the breaking down of the used item into raw materials which are used to make new items. By taking useful products and exchanging them, without reprocessing, reuse help save time, money, energy, and resources. In broader economic terms, reuse offers quality products to people and organizations with limited means, while generating jobs and business activity that contribute to the economy.
Historically, financial motivation was one of the main drivers of reuse. In the developing world this driver can lead to very high levels of reuse, however rising wages and consequent consumer demand for the convenience of disposable products has made the reuse of low value items such as packaging uneconomic in richer countries, leading to the demise of many reuse programs. Current environmental awareness is gradually changing attitudes and regulations, such as the new packaging regulations, are gradually beginning to reverse the situation.
Reuse has certain potential advantages:
- Energy and raw materials savings as replacing many single use products with one reusable one reduces the number that need to be manufactured.
- Reduced disposal needs and costs.
- Refurbishment can bring sophisticated, sustainable, well paid jobs to underdeveloped economies.
- Cost savings for business and consumers as a reusable product is often cheaper than the many single use products it replaces.
- Some older items were better handcrafted and appreciate in value.