EnvironmentWaste Treatment

What Is the Difference Between Reuse and Recycle?

Humans generate a lot of waste, and by ‘a lot’ means staggering. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), we generate around 300 million tons of plastic waste alone every year. Then there is industrial waste, household waste, etc.


So much waste is way beyond manageable and poses a substantial environmental and health risk. Therefore, effective waste management procedures are imperative. One simple and highly effective strategy is to reduce, reuse and recycle. The 3R of waste management forms the backbone of the circular economy.

In a circular economy, products are re-used rather than scrapped and extracted again. Waste products such as outdated electronic components, scrap metal, and old clothes are more likely to be returned or repurposed more effectively in a circular economy.

But in these technicalities, the two-term, reuse and recycle, often get intertwined, and it’s hard to differentiate between them. Both ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’ seem to represent the same concept, but they are both completely different terms in reality. Let’s understand the difference between reuse and recycle together.

How Are the Terms ‘Reuse’ And ‘Recycle’ Different From Each Other?

Although both terms represent the same principle of effective waste management by limiting waste generation and extending a product’s life, both carry a different meaning.

Reuse means all the operations that make it possible to reuse products for their intended purpose again or for another purpose without eliminating them to their base materials. It is simply about extending the life of the product.

On the other hand, recycling means all operations that involve reprocessing the waste material to obtain new products, materials, or substances that can be used for new purposes or for the same purpose the product was initially conceived.

Reuse vs. Recycle: What’s the Difference?

Reuse Recycle
Definition: It’s the process of reusing the old product for the same or different purpose without any processing, treatment, or changing its state. It’s the process of processing the original product to obtain raw materials that can be used to manufacture the same or different product.
Objective: The objective of reusing is to extend the life of an already used product. The objective of recycling is to obtain raw materials from an already used product to make new ones.
Environmental Impact: Reuse does not involve any harmful impact on the environment. Although recycling limits the drastic impact on the environment, it does cause harm in some cases.


Reuse does not change the state of the object. It only involves putting the object to creative use after it has served its intended purpose. Recycling reduces the object to its raw material state. The process has several steps, wherein the object undergoes several changes.

Energy Consumption:


Reuse does not involve any energy consumption.

Recycling involves energy consumption. However, overall energy consumption is far less as compared to manufacturing something from scratch.
Disadvantages: Reuse has no disadvantages because of no energy consumption and no detrimental ecological impact. Recycling involves industrial processes, therefore, poses some harm to the environment.

What Does the Term ‘Reuse’ Mean?

The term reuse implies making the object useful again, and the purpose could be identical or different. In any case, it does not involve any kind of processing. Although, a little bit of creativity is certainly a requirement.

  • Reusing saves energy as no processing is involved.
  • Saves you money because you are not spending on anything.
  • Extends the object’s life because you are reusing it.
  • And most importantly, reduces waste. It’s a simple and effective way to preserve energy and be environmentally conscious and resourceful.

Clothes are the perfect example to describe the term ‘reuse.’ Let’s say your old pair of jeans is wearing off from the knees. Instead of throwing them away, you could cut them down, and you have casual short jeans – wear them for a walk, beach visit, etc. Not interested in short jeans? Well, you can turn it into a bag and carry it to the market. It all represents reusing the old object for an extended period and reducing waste.

What Does the Term ‘Recycle’ Mean?

The term ‘recycle’ refers to the process of transforming a waste material to obtain new material or product. Recycling is an extensive process and involves a series of steps (collecting, sorting, disintegrating, melting, etc.).

Existing materials are recycled to obtain new products all the time. For example, backpacks, tents, and functional textiles such as bath linen are made from recycled PET granulate.

Similarly, paper in our home is recycled to obtain fresh paper, cardboard, etc. In both cases, we can see that raw materials obtained from the initial product are used to create a new product and give it a new use.

Recycling has several advantages, both ecological and environmental. Some of them are below;

  • It limits waste generation as the raw materials are reintroduced into the production process to obtain new materials.
  • Production cost is also reduced, since in any case, procuring raw material is more expensive than recycling.
  • Furthermore, recycling also saves energy, as the production process does not involve manufacturing initial raw materials.


Both the ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’ process are efficient at limiting waste generation and promoting positive ecological and environmental impacts. Both have their merits, and both are essential for a healthy and prosperous human future. Reusing is, however, a more straightforward process and can be easily adapted to day-to-day life. Recycling involves several steps; however, it also begins from our home. Instead of throwing away the discarded waste, we should make it our habit to sort materials and send them to the recycling center. It will go a long way towards the welfare of our planet, and future generations will forever be thankful for this small yet vastly beneficial gesture.

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