DEEP: Reuse Main Page

{Reuse Home Page Banner}
"Nature is the most thrifty thing in the world; she never wastes anything"
                                              ~ Horace Binney

Reuse is often considered the same as recycling, but they are really quite different. REUSE is any activity that lengthens the life of an item, such as using a washable mug instead of a disposable one.  RECYCLING is the reprocessing of an item into a raw material for use in another new product, for example, reprocessing plastic bottles into fibers for carpets and polar fleece.

Why Reuse?   Fix It   Barter For It 
Buy Durable Goods  Borrow It   Reuse Resources 
Reuse Centers and Material Exchanges

Why is Reuse Important?

Learn to REUSE!
Purchase durable goods so they last longer.
Buy goods that can be repaired and repair them when they need fixing.

Recognize that when you do not want an item anymore, it doesn’t mean that it has no value. It could be sold or given away.

Buy and sell used goods in the market place.

Borrow It – visit your local library!

Rent It – if you only need it once, don’t buy a new one.

Start a reuse center or swap shop in your town!

Reuse is important because at the same time that it confronts the challenges of waste reduction, reuse also sustains a comfortable quality of life and supports a productive economy. Unique to reuse is that it also brings resources to individuals and organizations that might otherwise be unable to acquire them.  With few exceptions reuse accomplishes these goals more effectively than recycling, and it does so in the following ways:

  • Reuse keeps goods and materials out of the waste stream
  • Reuse advances source reduction

  • Reuse preserves the "embodied energy" that was originally used to manufacture an item

  • Reuse reduces the strain on valuable resources, such as fuel, forests and water supplies, and helps safeguard wildlife habitats

  • Reuse creates less air and water pollution than making a new item or recycling

  • Reuse results in less hazardous waste

  • Reuse saves money in purchases and disposal costs

  • Reuse generates new business and employment opportunities for both small entrepreneurs and large enterprises

  • Reuse creates an affordable supply of goods that are often of excellent quality.

Buy Durable Goods

Buy goods or products that do not wear out quickly and that have usefulness over time rather than having only one or a few uses; and that can be repaired when broken or worn.  Look in the yellow pages, classified ads (local paper or on-line services) or free weekly circulars to locate repair shops that fix appliances, resole shoes, repair watches and jewelry, and fix lamps, toasters and other small household devices.  

Durable Goods – include major appliances, cars, business equipment, housewares, furniture, jewelry, tires, sporting goods, lead-acid automotive batteries, consumer electronics and other items with a useful life of three years or more.

Nondurable Goods or Soft Goods are the opposite of durable goods. They may be defined either as goods that are used up when used once, or that have a lifespan of less than 3 years. Examples of nondurable goods include cosmetics, food, cleaning products, fuel, office supplies, packaging and containers, paper and paper products, personal products, rubber, plastics, textiles, clothing and footwear.

Compare the difference in Greenhouse Gas Emissions if a durable good is recycled, incinerated or landfilled. 

How To Fix It Yourself or Reuse It In a Creative Way

Do It Yourself Home Improvement and Repair
Established in 1995 with a goal to provide consumers with unbiased home improvement and repair information in a community environment.

Do It Yourself Network
DIY Network’s programs and experts answer the most sought-after questions and offer creative projects for do-it-yourself enthusiasts. The site features broadband video channels including home improvement, crafts, automotive, gardening, and woodworking along with step-by-step instructions totaling more than 20,000 projects online.

Do It Yourself Ideas  A Better Homes and Gardens network site.

Fixers Collective NYC; FixItClinic, and FreeGeek
Although not in CT, these are great models for implementing just about anywhere.  They are dedicated groups of folks who meet regularly for "fixing sessions" where people can bring something broken to be fixed.

iFixit - A free on-line repair manual that allows you to share your knowledge.

wikiHow is a collaboration to build and share the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual. By contributing your knowledge to wikiHow, you will be helping people all over the world learn something new.

Make Stuff  For crafter's, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and people who just like to make stuff.  Has a recycling section.

Fun in the Making  A green crafting website with tips for sustainable living.

Borrow It

Neighbors and friends can be a great resource when you have a project that requires a special tool or other item.  Ask around, maybe you can help each other out by borrowing stuff you both need.  Often civic organizations, churches, non-profits, clubs, etc. own durable items that are available for members to borrow.  Tents, oversized coolers, folding tables & chairs, and dishes are common things that they may have.  Check with your group before purchasing them.

Connecticut Public Libraries  Today, public libraries are more than just books.  Find movies, CD's, DVD's, Internet access and more. 

Community Guide to Sharing - Exchanging stuff, time, skills, and space  (Center for a New American Dream)   When we need something, whether it’s a chainsaw or a roasting rack, our first thought is to go out and buy it. But why get it new when our neighbor down the street has one we can borrow?  This New Dream Community Action Kit is all about sharing: everything from starting a tool library to organizing a solar cooperative, from holding a clothing swap to launching a time bank. With how-to tips, fun videos, and useful resources, the Guide to Sharing provides the inspiration and practical tools you need to get started on these projects in your community – right away!

neighBORROW  Borrow a cup of anything!  This site connects people who have things to borrow, share, trade, lend and donate.   A neighBORROW-hood is a group of people willing to share items such as books, movies, CDs, tools; even information, photos, recipes (ANYTHING that can be shared legally) with one another.  Borrow, share, and trade things with others from your home town, your office, your school.

Rent or Lease It

How often are you really going to use that forty-foot ladder?  Renting or leasing things that you don't foresee using on a regular basis is a good system of reuse, and can be less expensive than purchasing and maintaining them.  Check the yellow pages, newspaper ads, or on-line for rental companies.  You can rent just about anything these days.

rentalsite®  An on-line directory of rental providers.

zipcar®   Wheels when you want them.  Car-sharing by the hour, day or just around the block.

Barter For It

The good old barter system works just fine.  Exchanging goods and services for other goods and services has been practiced since early man bartered skins and furs for meat and other needs. Even after thousands of years, bartering still thrives, except now it is taken to new heights on the Internet. 

Some barter networks are intended for consumers and exchanges are free.  Business-to-business barter clearinghouses usually charge an annual fee plus a percentage on each transaction. They award members their own currency, such as points, that can be redeemed for goods or services from other members.  There are literally hundreds of on-line barter networks, below are just a few examples.

For Consumers





For Business

New England Trade

Barter Network, Inc.

Use cloth/reusable bags when you shop 
Learn how to mend your clothes; sew on buttons and hem pants 
Start using a lunch box, travel mug, and thermos 
Donate your old car or furniture to a local charitable organization 
Bring old clothing and housewares to the Salvation Army, Goodwill or other local charity
Save eye glasses for the Lions Club or other community collection
Donate unused food from your community function or business to a shelter or food bank 
Buy or donate reusable construction materials from a local reuse center
Use old socks and tee shirts for dust cloths and shop rags

Reuse Resources

Reuse Centers and Material Exchanges (CT DEEP)

The Reuse Marketplace (NERC)  An on-line material exchange for the Northeast states.  Businesses, institutions, governments and organizations can become members and post items to be reused, and anyone can browse the listings to see available items.

A Guide to Local Building Material Reuse Centers  pdf color brochure (CT DEEP)

What is Zero Waste? (CT DEEP)

The Story of Stuff  The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Tips on Waste Reduction & Reuse for Schools (CT DEEP)

Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Pamphlets Informational Material Links (NY DEC)

Reuse in New England (EPA)

Source Reduction and Reuse Resources (EPA)

Reuse Opportunities in the Northeast (NERC)

CT State Surplus Program (CT DAS)
The Department of Administrative Services, State and Federal Property Distribution Programs provide state agencies, municipalities and approved nonprofit organizations with state and federal surplus government property.

The Reuse Project (Flickr)

10 Ways to Go Green and Save (World Watch)

Greener Choices - Electronics Reuse & Recycling Center (Consumer Reports) Here you’ll find solutions for dealing with your old Computer, Cell phone, TV and Other electronics, plus tips for buying new electronics that may last longer. You'll also find information about the growing problem of E-waste and what government and industry are doing to address it.

Ecofreek  (  A search engine that searches over 45 on-line sources for free and swappable items.

Other Helpful Organizations

Give Your Stuff Away Day ( Originally promoted on May 15, 2010 as an annual "curb day" on which residents place useable items at the curb for others to take for free.  Check back annually for the current year "curb day" date and information.

New American Dream  Mission is to help Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and promote social justice

ReUseIt Network

Reuse Development Organization (ReDO) Promotes reuse as an environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economical means for managing surplus and discarded materials

Earth911  Organization that seeks to deliver local information on recycling and product stewardship.

The Freecycle Network  Mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.

Craigslist  Provides a local classifieds and forums for more than 500 cities in over 50 countries worldwide - community moderated, and largely free.

The Institution Recycling Network (IRN)  A cooperative, member-led organization that offers several of its programs, including surplus property management and construction and demolition waste management.

Grist  Environmental news and commentary.  Environmental Issues

Grassroots Recycling Network   A national network of waste reduction activists and recycling professionals.

Keep America Beautiful  A national organization with local affiliates that work to engage individuals to organize efforts to reduce and prevent litter and recycle.

Institute for Local Self-Reliance  (ILSR) Provides innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support environmentally sound and equitable community development

East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse   A nonprofit corporation devoted to getting people to reuse materials.

Reuse Alliance  A networking conduit that builds relationships between reuse organizations

Second Life Bikes  A NJ non-profit that accepts donations of used bikes, fixes them, and gives them to kids.

Top of Page | Reduce/Reuse/Recycle

Content Last Updated August 21, 2013

Disclaimer: The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) maintains the content on this web site to enhance public access to information and facilitate understanding of waste reduction, reuse and recycling. The CT DEEP is not recommending these resources over any others and recognizes these represent only a partial listing of resources on this subject.