If you haven’t noticed, we care about reuse a lot. Heck, our entire business is built around the reuse economy!

Reuse is so important to us, to all of us, but it is still an idea that goes unnoticed in most of our daily lives. So, we’ll be spending the next few weeks filling you in on what reuse is, why it matters, and how it can positively impact your business.

You don’t have to look far to find reuse at work in today’s world. 

We buy refurbished cell phones, computers, furniture, even rehabbed houses. Reuse is all around us and it makes perfect sense why: Reuse requires less resources than recycling, saves money, and provides new products we wouldn't have otherwise found. Oh, and it’s a pretty stellar system for keeping the planet alive and well. 

Here are a few more ways you might experience reuse in your daily life: 

  • Purchasing a used car, appliances, or gym equipment 

  • Buying a gently-used baby stroller or bike from a local garage sale

  • Bargaining for a dresser or entertainment center on Craigslist 

  • Getting a deal on a refurbished iPhone or Macbook at the Apple store

At Relan, we look at reused products as "products with purpose” - a motto we live by. They are purchases we can stand behind, ones that help us sleep well because we know that our money and resources were well-spent on products that reduce waste, help create jobs, and manage our footprint. 

Recycling vs. reuse: What’s the difference?

Before we go any further, it’s important to understand that reuse and recycling are not the same thing. Similar! But not identical. 

(Remember this old thing?)

To make a long story short, recycling (in most cases) strips down materials to their most basic form before something new can be created, and reuse (in most cases) creates something new while keeping the material as-is. Think of recycling as a step down the ladder, as it tends to be more labor- and resource-intensive than reuse (hence its place at the bottom of the above funnel).  

How popular is reuse, anyway?

In a recent study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, they found that in Minnesota alone, over 46,000 people were employed in the reuse sector and generates at least $4 billion in gross sales annually. There’s another 4,600 employees in supporting industries that benefit from the reuse sector, and many reuse companies tend to be locally owned and operated. And that’s just in Minnesota! 

The recycling success in Minnesota is starting to gain attention. PBS even featured the rising recycling success in one of their recent Almanac at the Capitol episodes - we were honored to be a part of it! 

The concept of reuse and the circular economy is perking up the ears of executives from Texas to Tokyo. We’ve heard from sports organization leaders (like the Minnesota Twins, Wild, Timberwolves and Lynx) that incorporating reuse into their operations goes beyond the ROI, but the question still remains: How does reuse impact the bottom line? More to come on this topic, but I think a big win for our industry is that major consulting firms like McKinsey’s ReSOLVE Framework are popping up to help companies answer this question. 

Reuse is gaining steam, and fast. Companies like Speedo are now making swimsuits out of repurposed materials while smaller shops like Oxgut Hose Co. are making furniture out of reused fire hoses. And, that’s exactly what we’re doing here at Relan with reused billboards, banners, t-shirts, and more.

Curious about how this applies to your business?

Keep an eye out for our next post on how you can make a reuse program work for you and your customers.