Our idea to launch Reuse4education was inspired by our experiences from running Recycle Your Cycle – a service that refurbishes bicycles and vacuum cleaners and supplies them to charity shops.
Having seen the amount of waste generated at recycling centres, and observed the growing popularity of the ‘re-use and ‘recycle’ movement, we began thinking about we could use a similar model to help the education sector.
From talking to staff at a number of schools, we saw a great deal of frustration at their inability to source various items of equipment they needed due to budget cuts. The flipside of that was seeing how some larger universities and colleges seemed have budgets available for building and equipping new gymnasiums, science centres and other major projects. That prompted us to consider how both sides might be able to assist one another.
The end result is the reuse4education online platform, which aims to help educational settings, including schools, universities and even nurseries, sell, donate and loan equipment to one another, thus creating a mutually supportive community. One school might want to secure the loan of some specialist equipment for one or more lessons themed around a particular topic, while another might want to borrow some stage lighting from a local secondary school or college to help them stage their Christmas play.
The service was launched in May this year, and we currently have just over a hundred institutions registered and using the site. Of those, primary schools make up around 50%. The service is free to access, and can be used to list any item – even stationery. If an institution has purchased too many pencils or too much photocopying paper, for example, the site can provide them with a straightforward way of either selling or giving away those supplies to any other setting that might be able to use it.
It’s still a little early for us to be able to spot trends in our users’ activity. Our initial thought process was that given universities’ larger budgets and tendency to replace their equipment more frequently, we’d see them helping schools in their local area. We still believe that to be a strong part of the site’s service offering, but we’re also seeing direct local communications between a number of secondary and primary schools.
Moving forward, we plan to put in place a feedback facility whereby users can report on how their transactions have gone; if needed, we can then act as a neutral arbitrator in the event of disagreements. Our aim over the coming year is to have a thousand educational institutions signed up, since the bigger the community, the more resources and equipment will be made available to the site’s users.