The Principles of Reuse

What is Reuse?

Reuse involves extending the life of a product by 1) using it more than once (same or new function), 2) repairing it so it can be used longer (replacing the need for a new item), 3) sharing or renting it, or 4) selling or donating it to an other party.

While it’s definition is simple it includes many facets. To expound on this definition, Reuse includes:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Reuse and recycling are NOT the same thing!  In contrast to reuse, recycling (or down-cycling) is the breaking down of the used item into raw materials which are used to make new items (e.g. reuse turns unwanted wood/lumber into flooring or furniture, and recycling turns the same wood into sawdust or mulch).

What are Reuse Centers and Virtual Materials Exchanges?

Reuse organizations facilitate the transaction and redistribution of unwanted, yet perfectly usable, materials and equipment from one entity to another. The entities that benefit from either side of this service (as donors, sellers, recipients, or buyers) can be businesses, nonprofits, schools, community groups, and individuals.

Some services maintain physical space (a reuse center), and others act as an online match-making service (a virtual materials exchange). Reuse centers generally maintain both warehouses and trucks. They take possession of the donated materials and make them available for redistribution or sale. Virtual exchanges do not have physical space or trucks, but instead allow users to post listings of materials available and wanted (for free or at low cost) on an online materials exchange website. Staff can help facilitate the exchange of these materials without ever taking possession of the materials.

Do all Reuse Sector Organizations focus on reducing waste?

No. In fact, the core missions of many reuse organizations have little to do with their resulting environmental benefits. In some cases, the reuse operations can help these organizations with their social missions; such as feeding the homeless, providing essential supplies to poor mothers, providing books to school children, and resources to nonprofit arts organizations. And in other cases these operations serve as a source of revenue to fund other social service operations, such as a thrift store whose profits support people living with AIDS, or a bridal shop that provides funds for a charter school.

What are the benefits of choosing to Reuse?

By using a reuse centers or virtual exchange, you can:

What lasting impacts does Reuse have on society?

The recovery and redistribution of unwanted, yet perfectly usable materials (i.e. reuse) is an environmentally and economically sound alternative to discarding items as trash. In contrast to recycling, which processes discards to extract components for the manufacture of a new product, reuse preserves a material’s resources, including the value of the materials, labor, technology, and energy incorporated in them.

By taking useful products and exchanging them, without reprocessing, Reuse Sector Organizations 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.

Regardless of your business or need, reuse is a great way of lowering your costs either through the purchase of materials or in their disposal, and of course, contributing to a cleaner environment and less wasteful society.

There are thousands of reuse and remanufacturing organizations operating successfully throughout the USA and abroad have diverted hundreds of thousands of tons of material once destined for landfills. These services provide savings to companies in terms of disposal and material costs. Many companies spend a significant percentage of their budgets on waste disposal and raw materials. Many of these costs can be reduced through exchanging materials; turning what was once a significant drain on financial resources into profit!

Measuring the impacts of Reuse (Reuse Sector Data)

There are many ways of measuring the positive environmental, economic and social impact data reuse has on our communities.

These include, but are not limited, to:

The Reuse Alliance is seeking funding opportunities to establish regional and/or national data standards (common language and methodology) for the reuse sector.