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Freshers’ week free shops

Wednesday 30-01-2013 - 00:00

This year, we collected over 240 crates of unwanted items from students moving out of university accommodation and saved them from landfill. In doing so, we also gave new students a boost at the start of term.

Jo Walters, membership engagement co-ordinator, University of Sussex Students’ Union

Having seen how many perfectly usable items are left behind or thrown away by students every year, we wanted to do something to reduce this waste. Our reuse scheme provides crates for students to use at the end of the year. We ask them to give us the things they no longer want: electrical items, DVDs, books, crockery, cutlery, pots, pans, food, clothes, bedding, towels or anything else we can reuse.

Some of the more unusual donations included a Darth Vader mask and a rubber chicken!

Once the items were collected, our team of student volunteers spent a weekend sorting through them.
This year we donated 26 bags of clothing, 60 bags of rags and 60 electrical items worth over £4,000 in total to be sold by our local YMCA shop.

Eight crates of food and bedding, including 50 duvets, were donated to local charities, and we even reclaimed 80 glasses and a box of cutlery that had been ‘borrowed’ from our bars.

Despite donating so much to good causes, we still had 120 crates to stock our freshers’ week free shop.

The free shop is open for the first two days of freshers’ week and very popular with students, some of whom come along with giant suitcases to grab everything they need for their new house.

The free shop is particularly popular with international students, who otherwise have to buy new kitchen and bedding items, though they might not be in the UK for more than a few months.

We run a free shop all year round, where students can donate unwanted items and help themselves to anything they want.
The free shop model is a great way to reduce landfill as it encourages reuse and reduces the number of new items purchased by students. It also helps tackle the culture of disposability, and raises awareness of how unneeded but usable goods can be donated to charity.

The number of items donated has increased over the two years we have run the scheme, and we expect it to be more popular than ever at the end of this year. Though we only collect items from students living in university accommodation, we also use the scheme as an opportunity to highlight charity shops that accept donated goods and locations where other items can be recycled.

Carl Salton-Cox, our operations officer, said: “It is so good to see these items being donated and reused rather than being sent to landfill as in previous years. It means less waste, as well as helping local charities and future students.”

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