Re-use - Overview

Re-use occurs when items are used again for their original purpose. It can involve checking, cleaning and repairing items before they are passed on to a new owner. Local authorities can develop services to facilitate re-use or support existing re-use organisations and community groups to deliver their own activities.

Key points

  • Buying re-used items like sofas and TVs rather than buying new items is saving UK households around £1 billion a year and helping to create jobs.
  • The environmental benefits of re-using one tonne of sofas are the same as recycling one tonne of plastics.
  • It is estimated that 89,000 tonnes of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) are disposed of in residual waste at HWRCs, with a suggested potential resale value of £28 million. 
  • An estimated 160,000 tonnes of WEEE are disposed of via residual household waste collections. Taking account of its likely condition, this stream could have a resale value of up to £56 million.
  • An estimated £140 million worth (350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.

Definition of re-use 

Although re-use is a commonly-used term for a range of activities, it is important to understand the legal definitions of waste and re-use. WRAP's Bulky waste guidance outlines the definition of re-use and preparation for re-use based on the revised Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC): 

‘Re-use’ means any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived.

‘Preparing for re-use’ means checking, cleaning or repairing recovery operations, by which products or components of products that have become waste are prepared so that they can be re-used without any other pre-processing.

Preparation for re-use can range from a quick check over and clean to major restoration depending on the item and its condition. An item will be considered as re-used if the item retains its original function rather than being transformed into something else. For example, a table may be cleaned and painted before being used by a new owner as a table.

Mechanisms for re-use

Local authorities are in a good position to promote re-use through a number of mechanisms:

  • Providing services/facilities to remove/deposit any unwanted items
  • Introducing internal systems within the LA, such as an internet exchange sites and hire services
  • Running one-off internal events within the LA, such as organising a Give and Take Day or a jumble sale
  • Supporting community groups to run their own regular events (e.g. helping with promotional costs or provision of a venue)
  • Provide funding to enable organisations to subscribe to services (e.g. the council could offer to pay for schools’ membership to a toy library)