Relating to a natural resource, such as petroleum or a mineral ore, that cannot be replaced once it has been extracted or procured. Nonrenewable resources that are not significantly altered by their use, including most metals, can often be recovered and their usefulness extended by recycling. Compare renewable.
Relating to a natural resource, such as solar energy, water, or wood, that is never used up or that can be replaced by new growth. Resources that are dependent on regrowth can sometimes be depleted beyond the point of renewability, as when the deforestation of land leads to desertification or when a commercially valuable species is harvested to extinction. Pollution can also make a renewable resource such as water unusable in a particular location. Compare nonrenewable.