We are pleased to introduce this case study from Waikato University in New Zealand, where their decision to use Warp It has caught local media attention. This case study has been forged by quotes from Sustainability Manager Rachael Goddard’s interview on RNZ.nz.
- Waikato University in Hamilton, New Zealand, is the first university in NZ to adopt Warp It
- Warp It is being used as part of a scheme called ‘Furnicycle’
- 20% of reused furniture is furnishing student apartments
- 50% of reused tables, chairs, whiteboards, carpet and more are used within the university
- Excess furniture (30%) is donated to local charities including the Habitat for Humanity
- The university is engaged in various sustainability and waste initiatives, with Warp It being part of that suite of tools, campaigns and actions
- 1,500kg of waste diverted in the first month
How is Warp It going so far?
Oh, it's great. It's only been up and running a month, and we've already had 240 people register. About 30 of those are charities, and we've diverted one and a half tonnes of furniture with about 50% going back into the university. Staff, students, and charities are taking the remainder. So it's a lot faster and more efficient and requires less storage time for us as well. It's very good outreach for the community.
What could you compare Warp It to?
It's comparable to Trade Me (largest internet auction site in NZ). So essentially, you take a photograph of the item, whether it be a desk or a whiteboard, it's loaded on there, and people who have registered, such as students, staff, and charities, can go on there and just claim it. And they arrange to pick it up and take it away. So it aligns really well with our waste minimisation and management plan which has a broad range of initiatives around waste at the university. It complements it very well, because we're trying to reduce waste to landfill.
What other reuse initiatives does the university partake in?
So we have numerous initiatives, such as Re-Cycle which is a bike repair space where bicycles are donated to the university, and our bike mechanic and students fix them together. Those are subsidised for students, to try and get them out of their cars - the rest go to the Red Cross for new migrants and refugees coming into Hamilton. There's a whole raft of other programmes, from composting machines to subsidised stainless steel mugs - students are heavily involved. Some of it forms part of their coursework. So I think we're pretty good on the waste front. That's one of our main focuses.
How do you explain the reuse process?
You take a photograph, it's loaded on. People can also have a wishlist. So you can actually go and look at their wishlist if they're looking for something, and tell them, "Yes, we've got that coming up next week. We're clearing out a building. We've got 20 desks, you can take those, here are the measurements." And then, it's arranged for them to come and uplift them. So it's pretty fast and efficient. And it's had a massive uptake within a month which has been pretty extraordinary. And it’s free, but it's only for charities, not for profits, staff, and students.
What was the old process?
So originally what happened was somebody would email the porters at the university, they would uplift the furniture, take it back to stores, then they'd email me, then I'd email a charity, and it was a very laborious, slow process. This is much faster now. So the porters have less time on the ground running around. We take a photograph in situ, it goes onto the website, and then people just come and pick it up. So it's saving time and money. Even carbon emissions as well because of fewer trucks running around on the road.
We have about six to eight tonnes of furniture going in and out of the university a year. It's nice that we can redeploy some of that rather than some of it going to landfill. And, of course, the Right to Repair movement's coming in as well. So people are interested in repairing things. Items may have some screws missing or be a bit loose, but people are actually enjoying learning to repair things, which I think is a skill that some of us have forgotten.
Where is reuse happening the most?
We've got about 50% that goes back into the university, which is good, because it means we're not buying brand new, we're recycling our furniture. About 30% goes to charities, and the rest goes to staff and students. So, if a student wants to set up a new flat and they’ve just moved to Hamilton, they can come and get a desk, and a bookcase, and a chair from us to help them with that.
What did you know about Warp It beforehand?
It's been very popular in the UK. I heard about it at a conference when I was in Australia. It just happened to be introduced over there in the last year. I think there's five or six universities there that have adopted it. My colleagues here at the other universities and polytechnics are interested in it as well. So at this stage, even though we're only a month in, it seems to be going very well.
How have students got involved in the project?
Oh, the students are involved in some of the waste initiatives as part of their coursework. So they've been designing artwork for the recycling stations. They take part in waste audits every year at the university. We assess our waste, categorise it, and write reports on how we could reduce our waste. And students are involved in things like challenges, Eco-My-Flat competitions, I mentioned the bikes before, students learn how to repair a bicycle, and they're subsidised to get students out of their vehicles, and then the rest go to the Red Cross. It's a very good outreach engagement programme. And also, we're running a lot of events.
It seems to me there's been a bit of a paradigm shift in the last year with the students mobilising, and striking, and lobbying for climate change. We've had a huge increase in students wanting to be involved in initiatives. One example was an event we ran last month. It was a climate action event. It was in the evening, it was raining, it was cold. And a hundred and fifty people turned up, students, staff, and high school students, to talk about climate action and other actions that we can take. So it's very topical, and I think waste ties in quite well with that as well.
Are you seeing a lot of demand for actionable skills?
Even basic things like sewing, how to make a bag, a cloth bag, how to make a draught stopper. Beeswax Wraps is probably the most popular workshop we've run. So instead of people using Glad Wrap or plastic bags, students get a piece of fabric and they melt beeswax onto it, and it becomes a wrap for their sandwiches or cheese or whatever. And that has been incredibly popular. And of course, it reduces plastic as well.
Do you think furniture demand will fluctuate with the start and end of terms?
It's up and down. So we have a lot of buildings that are decanted when we're doing restoration or renovation work, or new builds. So all of a sudden, we may get an alert saying, "We have a building to clear in two weeks. Can you shift this furniture?" So sometimes it's a rapid response that we have to react to. And other times, it's a little slower. But it's fairly consistent throughout the year. It'll slow down probably November, December as the university starts to wind down with students taking exams and going on leave. But yeah, like I said, it's only been running a month. So we'll see how it goes.