The University of Salford’s Environmental Sustainability Officer, Rebecca Bennett, is here to walk us through their ‘Choose to reUSe’ scheme.
In this piece, you are going to learn about:
- How £422,000 was saved through reuse between November 2011 and May 2016
- How Facilities and Services were able to drive a huge reuse project
- Warp It’s role in the university
- The unexpected positive outcomes of reuse for a university with over 20,000 students and more than 2,000 staff members
- Interesting sustainable procurement practices that contributed towards this success
- How the project has won the university several awards and loads of recognition.
Without further delay, Rebecca takes over from here, telling us the story from start to finish…
The Salford reUSe scheme was created from necessity but has exceeded all expectations, being on track to achieve £0.5 million in savings over five years. With very little investment, a streamlined management system and support from budget controls and procurement policy, the scheme has achieved a real change in mindset across the University towards reuse as the norm rather than buying new, as well as the financial savings and reduced waste.
In 2011, a ‘Transformation Programme’ was launched in the light of a budget crisis at the University of Salford, in order to identify measures needed to save £7m in non-pay costs. As part of this, a ‘Savings Challenge’ was launched, which generated over 400 ideas from staff across the University. One of these ideas was to reuse furniture around the University. At the same time there was an opportunity for an internship from a representative from an Australian University who already had a comprehensive reuse system in place. In partnership with the Environmental Sustainability Team, the Building Management Team, Procurement Team and Digital Team, the intern was able to generate a reuse scheme concept, model and design. As a result, a holistic internal system was developed which included an online front-facing portal, an online back-facing management system, procurement policies and controls, and physical storage space.
The Salford reUSe scheme was launched in November 2011 to all staff, along with all budgets for furniture procurement being removed and a policy requirement to consult the reUSe system before any purchases of new furniture items were approved. As the system became more successful, it further evolved to include items additional to furniture and to seek out partners to donate items to that could not be reused within the University.
With the support of the Finance, Procurement and Building Management teams, the system resulted in significant savings over the first ten months (over four times the targets set) with over 500 items being reused and the scheme expanded to include other equipment and stationery as colleagues bought into the system and looked to donate unwanted items and reduce the number of new items they were purchasing.
The scheme continued its success in 2012/13 with 429 items reused and 2013/14 with 439 reused, being particularly successful with building clearance projects. Due to the popularity of the system we also were able to engage local charitable partners for donations of items that could not be reused in-house, including chairs for a local community centre, kitchenware for a local homeless shelter and craft items for a kids club.
Alongside this, the furniture procurement budgets in every department were reduced by over 90% during these years. Despite initial resistance to this, a real change of mindset has occurred with colleagues recognising the quality of the items that can be obtained through the reUSe scheme, less hoarding of items and more willingness to share.
The scheme was well embedded and consistently realising significant savings however hit a hurdle when a change to a new online content management system meant that the ‘back end’ of the online system could not be transferred across. Almost overnight the tracking and management side of the system was removed. As a result the decision was made to subscribe to Warp It, the national online system to support reuse within an organisation and beyond. The funding was justified as the saving potential had already been demonstrated, so there was confidence in a very short payback period. The additional benefits to the system were an improved user experience and interface, better reporting data and improved opportunities to link with local partners.
The opportunity was taken to re-launch the reUSe scheme within the Warp It frame in April 2015. All concerns about colleagues having to sign up to a new system have been unfounded as the scheme has been even more successful with nearly 600 items being reused in the last year (2015/16)! One benefit of the Warp It system is improved monitoring – waste avoided, carbon savings etc and improved user experience. The scheme is monitored monthly through the Estates Division Performance Indicators.
Who funded the project?
The project has been funded through the Estates division with some donation of time in kind from the Digital Team for the initial creation of the in-house system.
Were there any unexpected positive outcomes?
The main unexpected positive outcome has been the engagement with the Building Management teams. The system has created a real sense of ownership and achievement within the teams and a fantastic working relationship with the Environmental Sustainability Team, which has generated opportunities for other environmental improvement projects such as recycling and energy management.
The scheme has also improved management of WEEE and other recycling activities by providing a communication platform. It has also supported the management of building clearances to be more efficient with resources and time.
Another positive outcome which was not targeted initially has been the donations to local charitable organisations.
What sustainable procurement practices did you utilise for this project?
Sustainable procurement principles have been integral to this project. The very top priority of the Procurement Hierarchy - ‘do you need to purchase new in the first place?’- has been the policy embedded throughout the University with regards to furniture procurement. All teams are required to check the reUSe scheme for available items before any procurement of new items is approved and checks are made by finance teams. The system has also led to more standard specifications of equipment to enable reuse, as it is at the forefront of purchaser’s minds, leading to further consideration of whole-life costing.
Has this project benefited multiple areas of the university?
Savings have been realised in almost every department of the University as a result of the opportunity to obtain furniture and other equipment at no cost, rather than having to purchase new items, including stationery.
Also benefiting has been the IT and Information Governance departments, as we have worked together to ensure better communication for IT equipment management and WEEE compliance.
Has this initiative gone above and beyond standard legal requirements?
Waste legislation requires organisations to implement the waste hierarchy to reduce, reuse and recycle. The project epitomises this ethos and rather than just being a ‘tickbox exercise’ it has been well embedded into policy and mindset across the institution.