Large numbers of publications have appeared over the last few years, dealing with the molecular details of the regulation and process of the autophagy machinery in animals, plants, and unicellular eukaryotic organisms. This strong interest is caused by the fact that the autophagic process is involved in the adaptation of organisms to their environment and to stressful conditions, thereby contributing to cell and organism survival and longevity. In plants, as in other eukaryotes, autophagy is associated with longevity as mutants display early and strong leaf senescence symptoms, however, the exact role of autophagy as a pro-survival or pro-death process is unclear. Recently, evidence that autophagy participates in nitrogen remobilization has been provided, but the duality of the role of autophagy in leaf longevity and/or nutrient recycling through cell component catabolism remains. This review aims to give an overview of leaf senescence-associated processes from the physiological point of view and to discuss relationships between nutrient recycling, proteolysis, and autophagy. The dual role of autophagy as a pro-survival or pro-death process is discussed.