The Big Declutter in Scotland – What are Universities and Colleges Doing?

Pass it on week (9th-17th March 2019) is Scotland's annual celebration of re-use, where organisations and individuals join in to get swapping, donating, sharing and repairing to help make things last! This call to action for people in Scotland helps to highlight and further embrace the incredible potential of re-use. This year’s #Passitonweek theme is The Big Declutter. This blog by Sam Hartley, from the EAUC-Scotland Team, highlights how institutions have been or could be decluttering in innovative ways that promote reuse across Scotland.


University of Strathclyde – Stationery Station

The University of Strathclyde’s Sustainability & Environmental Management team organise a simple but effective decluttering process where they collect unwanted stationery from across the institutions and hold regular redistribution events, where they set up a ‘Stationery Station’ in high footfall locations (such as the library) and give away the unwanted items for free to students.

The Station events sometimes fall under campaign weeks such as fairtrade fortnight, so this is used an engagement opportunity for these by actions such as giving our free fairtrade chocolates. At the freshers Stationery Station events students are often waiting for the arrival of the items and are often cleared out within the hour!

The project has been running since September 2016 and the team now get donations dropped off from students and staff alike during the event, and they are now the first port of call when departments are having a clear-out.
A rough estimate from the team reveals they have redistributed around 2500 files alone!

Perth College - WEEE Centre

Many institutions struggle to implement an institution-wide programme for recycling and reusing their electronic waste. University of the Highlands and Islands’ Perth College’s system reaches beyond just the institution and also incorporates education for sustainable practices into its WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) recycling.

The WEEE Centre at Perth College repairs and recycles old electronic equipment and resells, donates, or recycles the equipment it receives. The centre is also a teaching tool for computing students from the college, who develop skills in finding faults and repairing IT equipment, as well as transferrable skills from working in an IT reuse working environment. Students are also invaluable in providing the capacity for electronic recycling and reuse.

IT equipment is received from the institution when on-site PCs are upgraded, donated by individuals (staff, students, and the local community), and are also received from businesses through local recycling facilities. Unlike most WEEE recycling processes in UK institutions, personal electronics from staff and students are also included in the recycling stream, meaning the message that their electronics are repairable and recyclable goes further than internal procurement practices.
Read more about this project on the Sustainability Exchange

West College Scotland – Swap it!

West College Scotland have been making a conscious effort to encourage the sharing of furniture, stationery and other items for several years. This year they will be running a ‘Swap It!’ event to provide staff and students with the opportunity to declutter whilst receiving an item of better use to them. Items can be dropped off in the storage area, at which point the donor will receive a ticket to pick up any item on the ‘Swap It!’ day. For those who don’t have anything to declutter but would be interested in repurposing an item dropped off my by someone else, a £2 fee is charged to be redistributed to charity.

University of St Andrews - BHF drop off points, and town-wide swap shop

The University of St Andrews have a strong partnership with the British Heart Foundation (They have raised £19,000 for the organisation so far) through student end of year waste donations. However this year they’ll be launching their collection boxes early for Pass it on Week to students to start their clear outs now. They will also be holding a town wide swap shop throughout the week.

Keep an eye out for these campaigns on the Environment Teams Twitter account here.
Glasgow Caledonian University - Bikes for Refugees

Decluttering may mean clearing your bike parking facilities of abandoned bikes, whilst making sure they get the best chance at a new home. Glasgow Caledonian University redirects bikes abandoned on its campus in Glasgow to Bikes for Refugees (Scotland) who recondition them to provide a low-cost transport option to refugees in Scotland. See their video below.

Many other institutions also have links with local bike non-profits who serve to upcycle bikes whilst providing an opportunity for the local community to learn new skills in doing so. One of these organisations with many ties to institutions is The Bike Station.

A Tool Library
Tool Libraries serve to help society move to a more circular economy in recognition that we all own tools we only need on the odd occasion. Many institutions will have tools and equipment that is going unused or could be better used by community sharing - these may be operational or educational tools such as lab or workshop equipment. Library’s, like the Edinburgh Tool Library, aim to provide skill sharing and community empowerment opportunities within their remit.

University of Glasgow Community Fridge and Edinburgh Swap and Reuse Hub Food Sharing Hub
Although food can’t really be considered ‘clutter’ per se, we’d like to shoehorn this in in the name of passing it on, and the fantastic food recuse projects in Scotland. According to Greener Scotland, every year 380,000 tonnes of food and drink are thrown away which didn’t have to be – this costs the Scottish public over £1bn every year. 

Recently the Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team have opened a Community Fridge in their library, providing a home for surplus food from local businesses. Watch the video below to learn more about this project.

Community Fridge

Have you spotted the community fridge in the University of Glasgow Library? 🍞 🥕🍫🍩 The fridge is stocked with food which would have been thrown away by local businesses and students & staff can help themselves for free! 💰 Find out more about Guest - Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team 👉

Posted by University of Glasgow on Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Shrub Swap and Reuse Hub is a community-led cooperative based in Edinburgh who have created Scotland’s first ever recycled food shop, following years of food redistribution efforts to local charities. The goal of the Food Sharing Hub is to save surplus food from shops, restaurants and supermarkets from an unnecessary fate in the bin. The food is still fresh and good to eat and you get to pay as you feel.

If you have a Pass it on Week Project, make sure to register your project with Zero Waste Scotland so the full scale of the campaign can be recorded!

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