Why reuse is better than recycling

OOM Earth
OOM Earth
Published in
3 min readJan 20


82 million tons.

This is the staggering amount of waste that’s produced yearly in the United States from single use packaging.

Waste management facility with insurmountable amount of garbage
The hidden side of modern consumption: almost everything we consume creates single use packaging waste

Why should we reuse bottles, containers, or jars when we already have recycling available in nearly every municipality?

  1. The reality is that only a small percentage of items placed in recycling bins actually gets recycled
  • This means between 66% — 91% of all recycling actually ends up in landfills equaling about 61 million tons of packaging waste
  • By reusing, we can eliminate millions of tons of waste entering landfills, rivers, and oceans
Most of the plastic packaging waste will stay on our planet for generations

2. Reuse consumes significantly less energy than recycling

  • To recycle the small percentage of recycled items, it takes a lot of energy to be able to transform the materials into new material
  • Reusing reduces up to 92% of GHG emissions (compared to recycling or creating new packaging), even if you factor in additional transportation, processing, etc.
Source: Reloop, “Reusable vs Single-Use Packaging: A Review Of Environmental Impact” (2020)
Source: Reloop, “Reusable vs Single-Use Packaging: A Review Of Environmental Impact” (2020)

3. Resource conservation

  • When we have packaging such as glass bottles, jars, etc. that are perfectly good to use again (actually it can be used 1000+ times), it doesn’t make sense to produce completely new ones that consume new resources
  • Comparing just one resource needed for new production, the reuse process uses 82% less water. That’s even after washing cycles are factored in

In short, reusing is the most effective way to eliminate waste, pollution, and conserve our planet’s limited resources. If you’re convinced reuse is the way forward or just curious about learning more, check out our post on the different reuse models available.

With that, we leave you with some interesting stats:


  • Packaging waste contributes to 30% of municipal solid waste in the United States, adding 82 million tons of trash into our landfills each year
  • Only 9% of the plastic packaging ever produced has been recycled
  • 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste made since 1960, of which half were produced in the last 20 yrs
  • Plastic can only be recycled once — after that, it goes straight to landfill. All the bottles/containers that are made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic can never be recycled again since the plastic has degraded too much


  • U.S. sends most of the recycling waste to developing markets
  • In recent years, these countries began rejecting recycling imports, since they do not have any further capacity. As a result, the cost of managing the recycling programs has tripled

Consumer Sentiment:

  • 84% of U.S. consumers are concerned about plastic and packaging waste, which is increasingly driving consumers’ purchasing decisions

Resource Scarcity & Supply Chain Challenges:

  • Due to labor shortages and other global events affecting raw materials & energy supplies, the packaging supply chain has been interrupted
  • 40% to 80% increase in packaging price from 2020 to 2022
  • 6x increase in lead time for packaging supply from 2020 to 2022

Visit our website to learn how OOM is pushing the reuse movement forward.