Don't Trash That Old Office Chair — Freecycle It!

Once, when I was a facilities coordinator, I had to clear out half of a floor which had been vacated by a business unit several months before. The cubicles were still full of stuff. Files that needed to be destroyed. Random personal belongings. And what ended up being piles and piles of barely used and often brand new office supplies.

I set up an empty conference room in the unused section of the floor as a supply depot, and encouraged the remaining business units to take what they wanted. But eventually, the unused section of the floor was leased back to the building and I had to throw everything that was left out. As I filled up gondola after gondola with perfectly good stuff, I knew the landfill was not where it should be going, but I didn't know what else to do. That was over ten years ago, and I still feel guilty over the waste. 

Over the years, I’ve become aware of a couple organizations that might have been able to direct me on how to keep those materials out of the landfill. Here are some of the organizations I know are working to help facility managers upcycle or freecycle materials from their facility.

  • Scarce in Glen Ellyn, a suburb of Chicago, does a ton of great work around recycling materials from the residential sector. But they also accept books, office supplies, office furniture, even pianos (!) and make them available for free to local schools.
  • DeliverGood in Calgary (Canada), accepts office furniture and office supplies and makes them available for free to non-profits. I’m talking conference tables, workstations, paper towel dispensers, and other goods.
  • repurposedMATERIALS is more in the upcycling arena. They have locations in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia, and they get in all manner of materials, from the industrial like big storage tanks, to things like old sports flooring. Did you know you can recycle flooring of all varieties? One of their slogans is, “If you don’t want it, we might!!”

I hope there are many more such organizations, and I'm hoping you can help educate me. If you know of one, give them a shoutout here with a link to their website (if it’s handy), their service area, and the kinds of items they accept.

What are the kinds of challenges you're facing regarding the mountain of supplies, furniture, and other still-usable materials that are in facilities? What do you do with it when you don't need it anymore? 

2 Replies

  • Hi, Naomi. Thanks for the article on this important topic. Here at NOLS, we donate surplus furniture, odd bits of lumber and old paints to non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity who happen to have one of their Restores nearby. Check out habitat.org/restores. I also just found about the Freecycle Network (freecycle.org), though I haven't used it yet. One more thing to share: As a public agency, NOLS must take care to only donate surplus to legitimate non-profits and to make a record of the disposal. If you also work for a public agency, it's a good idea to make sure you are correctly following your organizations disposal policy! Thanks, again.

  • In reply to Brian Phillips:

    Hi Brian. That's fantastic. Thanks for shouting out the Restore. Looks like they accept a very wide range of materials: "appliances, furniture, building materials, household goods and more." And thank you for the point about following the organization's disposal policy. Does needing to find that that disposal documentation create any challenges for you? If so, how have you solved for that?
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