Warp It are pleased to welcome Sustainable Development Project Officer Julie McPhee from Stirling Council in Scotland to talk about:
- Signing up to Warp It after meeting at a conference
- Making large donations to charities
- Collaboarating with the building clearance team
- The liberating feeling of having items claimed
Hi Julie, thanks for giving up your time to speak with us for the benefit of our readers. Why did you commission Warp It? What led to the decision?
We were looking for a solution for our unwanted furniture and surplus assets. One of our elected members had been looking out of the window and saw a bookcase sitting in the rain and decided to pursue a change. In the past, everything we did with reuse was ad hoc, so there might have been a frantic phone call to the Salvation Army to see if they wanted something. Invariably, things were no use to them, no use to us, and had be disposed of, so things would either go off to the tip, or if they were fortunate, they’d be recycled. Shortly after this, I was at a conference and I heard you (Daniel O’Connor) talking about Warp It. It sounded like the solution we needed, and easy to set up, so that’s how it all kicked off.
It’s great that you saw the problem, sought a solution and fate brought us together! So at this point, we’ve spent some time getting you set up, so can you tell us how your building clearances have improved?
So far we’ve had two main buildings be decommissioned and put on the market for new tenants. They’re not going to be used by the council anymore. So, we have had a lot of surplus furniture that ordinarily we wouldn’t have been able to find a home for and would have been hard to get rid of, but using Warp It has been a great outlet and hasn’t caused us any hassle. The furniture’s there, we list it on the online reuse portal and somebody comes to pick it up. In the past, it would have been a logistical nightmare trying to get an item to people. Now, all the systems are in place to make things run smoothly.
Fantastic to hear! What’s even better is that you’ve only been on the system a short time, but you’re already in the top 10 for donating assets to charity!
We’ve actually just used this as a good news story. Our environment committee were slightly critical that we weren’t publicising our good work well enough. The fact that we made it into the top 10 was ripe for a good news story, so we turned it into different formats and it’s on the ticker tape on our website, as well as in a council-wide email saying ‘Congratulations, we’re in the top 10!’. We’ve added it to the member’s bulletin for next week, so they’ll find the news in their pigeon holes too. We are learning as we go along, and yesterday’s email blast lead me to have 14 new member requests this morning!
Amazing work, keep it up! What about the member who saw the bookcase out the window, they must be quite pleased with themselves?
I really hope so. It’s hard for people to say that we’re not doing something, or not doing enough, because we’ve made inroads and progress and the numbers are there to be seen. It’s not lip service anymore, saying ‘We do try the Salvation Army’, now, we’re telling people that ‘we do everything we can to find items a new home’. If we can donate office furniture, we will.
The process of donating to charities, how did it all go down? Was it smooth, or did you face some issues?
There were one or two hiccups. I think sometimes claimants overestimate how much space they’ve got in their van and how much they can take, so they would claim a set of desks and then realise it was a bit ambitious. When they couldn’t take everything, we’ve had to re-list items, but if they’ve taken some things, it’s helpful, it’s good for us.
So we’ve had little things like that, and some communications breakdowns for pickup times, but we just keep at it. For some people, email isn’t the best method, not everyone is sat at their computer with emails open, so sometimes we give them a phone call and it clears everything up.
We’ve had people travel a long way to collect items...
How far? Can you tell us about some claims?
One of the charities we’re partnered with is right down in the Borders in a very rural part of the world, but they were on the ball. They came with tools to dismantle the tables and they arrived in a horsebox to take items away. It was like a game of tetris packing everything up inside! It was quite amazing.
Our staff like to help too, so sometimes they roll their sleeves up and give a hand clearing and loading.
It sounds like your building clearance people are just happy that items are being taken, so that they’re not your issue any more?
It’s taken the pressure off them big time! They want room to be cleared so potential tenants can view them. There are sometimes bits and pieces that are left and don’t get claimed, but it’s far less of a problem than before, as we can store things in a basement room until they’re claimed. You don’t necessarily have to clear every single item to perform a viewing, so if we make inroads, the pressure goes down and we come up with alternative temporary storage solutions.
We also had someone take some filing cabinets to be used for smoking salmon! So some things aren’t being used for their original purpose, but it’s not our issue, we just find it interesting.
What are your plans for the next three, six and twelve months in regards to reuse and donations?
I think we need to make more headway with schools, though I was emailing a colleague in education today and I said “Warp It is working well for council buildings, but we’re not seeing any school equipment moving around, do you know the reason for this?”. She told me they find that they don’t have the transportation for moving items from school to school, and often the cost outweighs the benefits of moving items. We need to figure out a way to get around this issue, see if we can find a solution. If a council van is in the area, can it swing past the school? Rather than binning items, can they find other routes, or people to collect items? The onus really is on finding claimants who can collect.
Final question for you now Julie. Do you have any tips for working with charities, or getting external donations to increase?
Honestly, Warp It does the work itself, that’s the beauty of it. Before, we’d have to do all the donkey work, now I just call the charities and tell them that if they’re not on the system, they need to get on it, because it doesn’t cost a thing and one day you might need something that someone else has! The system is all set up to do the work for us. It’s made things better for everyone involved.
To summarise this wonderful chat with Julie McPhee from Stirling Council:
Warp It is very easy to set up and gets results immediately
Hassle-free solution for building clearances and decommissions
Positive reuse results in good news stories which boost your reputation and CSR values
Working with charities can be easy
Warp It does the work so that you don’t have to!