Renewable vs Non Renewable Resources: Difference, Examples, & More

In the guide below, we explain and compare renewable vs non renewable resources.

We identify what each one is, the main difference between them, and provide some examples.


What Are Renewable Resources?

Renewable resources are resources that replenish at a rate that is equal to or greater than the rate they are consumed at

Because these resources are abundant or being replaced so quickly, they can be used over and over


What Are Non Renewable Resources?

Non renewable resources are resources that either don’t replenish at all, or, they replenish at a rate that is slower than the rate they are being consumed (i.e. below the required resource replacement rate)

Non renewable resources are sometimes referred to as scarce resources.


Renewable vs Non Renewable Resources – Main Difference/s

The main difference between renewable and non renewable resources is that:

– Renewable resources can be replenished at a rate that is equal to or greater than the rate of consumption so that they can be used again

– Non renewable resources on the other hand don’t replenish at all, or, replenish at a much slower rate than the rate of consumption, meaning that at some point the resources will deplete and can’t continue to be used over the long term


Examples Of Both Renewable & Non Renewable Resources

Some examples of each may include but aren’t limited to:


Renewable Resources

– Renewable Energy

There’s various forms of renewable energy, such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal (from the Earth’s heat)


– Biomass Resources

Includes organic and plant based material

Some examples include wood, bamboo, cotton, and so on


– Freshwater From The Hydrological Cycle

Fresh water on Earth is constantly cycling through what is called the ‘hydrological cycle’

This involves mainly evaporation, condensation and precipitation

Rainfall fills rivers, lakes, groundwater aquifers, man made dams, and other places that fresh water can be stored


Non Renewable Resources

– Fossil Fuels

Such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum


– Other Minerals & Ores

Other minerals and ores include examples such as gold, silver, 


– Land

There is only so much land in the world, and there’s only so much habitable land in the world that can be used for different land uses


– Agricultural Topsoil

Agricultural topsoil forms over very long time cycles – these timecycles are greater than the erosion rate in many instances


Exceptions & Nuances To Non Renewable Resources

Although some resources are generally classified as either renewable or non renewable, there can be some exceptions and nuances to these general classifications.

Some examples of this might include:

– Water

Water is generally renewable from the natural hydrological cycle.

However, there’s a range of factors that can impact how much water is left to use in each city or town worldwide.

Additionally, more modern technology like desalination can help augment water supplies in addition to what is provided naturally.


– Minerals & Ores

Minerals or ores like gold are generally considered as non renewable

However, gold can be recycled, and ultimately re-used

When resources can be recovered or re-used, being classified as a non renewable resource may not be as much of a concern in some instances.

Other metals like aluminum and steel are also recycled at high rates


– New Technology

In the future, developments with new technology may help convert some materials back into their raw form, and this raw form may be a form of a non renewable resource.

One potential example of this might be technology that converts plastic back into oil.




1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides

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