What’s the Difference Between Recycling and Reusing? 

Written by Ollie Wilkinson

It's all re, re, re with you isn't it?

Saving the planet has more re’s than an office email chain, only with less “to whom it may concern” and more kind regards to our planet. Our latest guide gives the lowdown on the difference between recycling, reusing and reducing. We hope it finds you well! 

Reduce, reuse, recycle. No, they’re not the names of the new Matrix sequels, but they can help the planet dodge a pretty large, global warming-shaped bullet. 

Hollywood remakes and reboots can be tiresome (just look at Nicolas Cage’s IMDB page), but recycling and reusing waste (no offense, Nic) can have a blockbuster impact on our planet. 

How are recycling and reusing different? 

Recycling and reusing are part of the same eco-friendly band. But while they sing from the same sustainability hymn sheet, they have very different solo careers.  

Recycling is when you take an item’s materials and reprocess them to be used elsewhere. This cuts down waste and ensures useful resources are converted into new products, rather than being wasted after a single use.  

Reusing, on the other hand, is about repurposing items and products for extended use. By not discarding the item, you’re extending its lifecycle and avoiding the excess energy and materials needed to dispose of it and make a new one. 

Why is recycling important? 

Before you ask, no, recycling is not about riding your bike twice. It’s about alleviating the pressure on our planet to provide new materials for our everyday lives. 

Man-made materials deplete natural resources, and the production and disposal of everyday items gives global warming the nudge it needs to continue spoiling our beautiful planet. 

Whether it’s chopping down trees, plastic rotting in landfill, or litter sneaking its way into our oceans, single-use items are a load of rubbish, cursed to hopefully rot in the past alongside planking, acid wash jeans and mullets. 

Recycling’s impact on the environment 

The UK generates 222.9 million tonnes of waste a year, yet less than half of this is recycled (BBC). The rest – whether it’s packaging or food waste – is either incinerated or left in landfills and oceans, putting hundreds of species at risk and creating a big unfriendly cloud of nasty greenhouses gases. Meanwhile, the more litter we throw away, the more energy is used to create the exact same items and packaging once more. 

Recycling cuts down air and water pollution, as well as our reliance on fossil fuels and deforestation. It also creates more jobs, protects ecosystems and habitats, and conserves natural resources. 

Recycling facts: 

  • • Each year, the average Brit throws away 7 times their body weight in waste (Recycling Bins
  • • 113,200 aluminium cans are recycled every minute (thinkcans.net) 
  • • It takes 95% less energy to recycle an aluminium can than it does to make a new one (news.co.uk
  • • Recycling a single plastic bottle conserves enough energy to light a 60W light bulb for up to 6 hours (Recycle More
  • • Recycling one ton of paper helps save 17 trees (Environmental Protection Agency). 

How to recycle 

If Marvel can make nine Spiderman films in the last 20 years, becoming a recycling hero at home should be easy. And it is! 

All you need to do is check the packaging on your products and make sure anything that dons the recycling symbol ♻ is properly disposed of in your recycling bin. But beware, the first rule of recycling club is to check your local council’s recycling rules, as guidelines do tend to differ depending on where you live.  

What are some examples of recycling? 

Recycling includes way more than your dad’s dodgy jokes, the Minion memes your mum shares on Facebook, or that weird text chain you get from your eccentric auntie every New Year. 

Make haste and recycle your waste with the following examples: 

  • • Use products with recyclable paper packaging, like our baked goods, fruit and veg, and eggs
  • • Avoid single-use and disposable plastics, like our evil arch-nemesis, the plastic milk carton. These degrade into tiny, pesky particles which release toxic chemicals and find their way into our oceans. 
  • • If you can’t find a reusable alternative, try to shop for items that come in easily recyclable packaging, like paper, glass, cardboard and metal. 
  • • If you do have to use plastic (boo!), rinse any that go into your recycling after removing any labels and lids. This ensures the “closed loop” recycling model remains uncontaminated and performs at its best. 

The lowdown on reusing 

Remember when you stayed in the same PJs for four days straight during the first lockdown? Or when you topped up the same mug with coffee for a whole week without washing it?  

These are examples of reusing something to avoid spending extra energy or materials. The same thing can be applied to the environment, supply chains and packaging, only without the gross factor. 

How reusing helps the environment 

Take the “f” out of “refuse to save the planet”, and what do you get? 

Recycling requires items to be cleaned, melded, melted and restructured before they are used again. Reusing goods removes the need for all that energy, costs and materials, making it even more sustainable. Impressive, right? 

Rather than buying a lot and often, reusing is about creating something of high quality and durability that can be used again and again.  

Return and reuse facts: 

  • • Return and reusing is all about giving your wheelie bin a much-deserved day off, and our sustainable milkround has saved over 29 million plastic bottles (and counting!) from landfill. This is all thanks to our eco-friendly packaging and free glass bottle collections. 
  • • Customers save an average of 316 wheelie bins of plastic per year when signing up to receive our plastic free, compostable, recyclable, return and reuse groceries. 

What are some examples of reusing? 

The mack, kings and jedis aren’t the only ones capable of returning. Become the Godfather of reducing waste and check out these offers you can reuse: 

Okay, but what about upcycling? 

Upcycling is a relatively new sustainable process that takes recycling one step further. It involves transforming a particular product, material, or series of items into something of even greater use and quality. An example of this would be upgrading old, unwanted furniture with a lick of paint or DIY. 

Want to get your creative juices flowing? Get on yer bike and upcycle

The 3 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle 

Sustainability may have more rrr’s than a pirate can shake his hook at, but being savvy about waste helps protect our seas.  

To learn more about how you can reduce your carbon footprint and make great strides towards a greener life, dip your toes in our sustainability blog

Look how much plastic we've saved!


Plastic bottles saved and counting


Wheelie bins of plastic saved from landfill

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