“Reduce, refuse, re-use, repair and recycle” is a useful hierarchy of strategies for waste minimisation.

“Re-use means either put to the same purpose or put to the next best use” (Holmgren p112). 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. The ideas of re-use can be extended from simply re-using containers such as glass milk bottles, to offering no-longer-needed furniture for use by another household, to distributing surplus food from restaurants and supermarkets to people in need, to re-using bathwater for laundering clothes and the irrigating the garden.

Advantages of re-use:

  • the next best use catches energy at each step of degradation before it degrades to the point of being unusable
  • reduces energy and material use as one reusable object may replace the need for several single use products
  • reduced costs and energy use associated with product disposal.

Disadvantages of re-use:

  • reuse may have associated costs in cleaning or transport and also takes time
  • some products such as fridges or car seats are not suitable for long term reuse as they may become unsafe over time
  • it is possible to collect so many things for potential reuse that that they start to degrade before they are reused.