Reusing & Repurposing Waste: Definitions, Materials, Examples, & More

In the guide below, we discuss reusing and repurposing waste.

Specifically, we provide definitions, and also outline materials, and as well as examples and ideas for both.


What Is The Reusing Of Waste? (Definition)

Reusing is generally the re-using of a product, item, material, or type of waste, for a similar or different use compared to the original use

Reusing doesn’t have to involve just reusing waste – it can involve reusing existing products in some way before they become waste

Therefore, a key feature of re-using might be extending a product’s life or longevity before it becomes waste

Reusing can take many forms, such as servicing, repairing, restoring or refurbishing, selling pre-used (re-sale), donating, swapping, renting and leasing, and more

Reusing does not involve the collection and processing (or breaking down) of waste and materials like recycling usually does, and might be considered less energy intensive and a less complex process compared to recycling


What Is The Repurposing Of Waste? (Definition)

Repurposing can include reuse, and some reports even classify both as the same thing

However, repurposing might be a form of reusing, and therefore have a slightly different definition than reuse

Repurposing generally involves reusing an item, material, or type of waste, solely for a different or alternative use than the original use

Repurposing can involve using the item or material by itself in it’s original form, modifying it, or it might even involve incorporation with other items or materials for a new application

Repurposing might generally be done with something that would have been thrown out otherwise, or with something that is already considered waste or junk


Upcycling & Downcycling

Both reusing and repurposing might include both the upcycling and downcycling of materials in some instances 


Materials That Can Be Re-Used Or Repurposed

Almost any material can be re-used or repurposed in some way. Examples might include:

– Plastic

– Glass

– Timber and wood

 – Metals

– Different textile fibres and fabrics


Reusable Products

There’s a range of products that are marketing and manufactured as being reusable. Some examples might include but aren’t limited to reusable:

– Bags

– Bottles

– Containers

– Cutlery

– Straws

– Packaging (wrapping, bags, crates, pallets, etc.)

– Personal Care Products


Examples Of Reusing (& Ideas)

Some examples of reusing products, items, waste and materials might include but aren’t limited to:

– Reusing new products (such as the ones listed above) that are designed to be reusable


– Keeping containers (like glass coffee containers) and bottles and re-using them by re-filling them with food, condiments or beverages 

For example, some containers might be kept, cleaned, and taken to zero waste stores to refill them


– Updating or repairing electronics and technology products and continuing to use them instead of discarding them


– Repairing and restoring textiles and fashion items and continuing to use them instead of discarding them


– Donating items to charity stores and secondhand stores to be re-sold or used again

Pre-owned items can also be sold or swapped privately, to be used again instead of discarding them. Clothing and fashion items are a common example of this


– There’s several products and items that can be ‘refurbished’ or ‘restored’ and re-sold

Some examples include vacuums, furniture, technology products like smartphones and laptops, and more


– There’s several types of items across various industries that can be ‘overhauled’ or ‘restored’ and can continue to be used 

Some examples might include engine components, electronics components, air craft components, shipping components, and more


– Reusing some nutrients or chemicals from some agricultural or manufacturing processes


– Treating and reusing some waste water in some production processes

Although, some might consider this a form of water recycling


Examples Of Repurposing (& Ideas)

Some examples of repurposing products, items, waste and materials might include but aren’t limited to:

– Repurposing shopping bags as bin liners


– Repurposing single use bottles and containers for storage

Of food, beverages, cleaning products, gardening products, hardware items like nails, and so on


Repurposing some EV batteries for home energy storage applications


Repurposing various objects and materials as artificial reefs


– Repurposing old airplane carriers as homes


– The resource listed has various other examples of repurposing


Other Examples Of Reuse & Repurposing

There’s examples of both upcycling and downcycling that might double as examples of both reuse and repurposing too.

Two examples might be:

– Upcycling and re-using various materials like metal and plastic bottles together in an artistic piece, or for other applications


– Downcycling and repurposing single use items for lower quality or inferior uses compared to their original use


Other Guides On Reuse & Repurposing

The Potential Pros & Cons Of Reusing & Repurposing Waste

Comparison Of Recycling, Reusing & Repurposing




1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guide




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