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The ReUse Warehouse is coming to you

On Sept. 1, the ReUse program will begin operating collection routes at no charge

By Adam Overland

ReUse dental chair 165
A dental chair--just one of the many items, obscure and otherwise, that can be found at the U's ReUse warehouse.

August 24, 2010

Two hundred and thirty thousand pounds of office chairs, file cabinets, desks, whiteboards, flat-screen monitors, and the occasional catapult*—that's the weight of University surplus property the U's ReUse Warehouse collected and put back into use in 2009. Situated west of the Minneapolis campus at 883 29th Avenue S.E., the warehouse is like 35,000 square feet of pure garage sale bliss, with a bunch of stuff from that eccentric guy down the street who's really into reflex stereoscopes. Whether you're that eccentric guy or a regular Joe with an extra office chair or two, the ReUse Warehouse is coming to you.

Beginning Sept. 1, the ReUse program will begin operating collection routes on the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses at no charge to departments. Until now, departments have had to pay a disposal fee and deliver their own surplus items to the warehouse. While getting items to the nearest pick-up location will remain the department's responsibility, ReUse staff will handle everything from there. Each week, they'll visit nearly 100 sites covering the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses.

The Reuse Warehouse has also recently undergone a physical transformation with a more open floor plan (though it's hard to feng shui a building with 300 chairs), and is gearing up to begin listing inventory online soon. In the meantime, they've begun a Facebook page with updates, photographs, and some amusing photo captions.

Since its founding in 1993, the primary goal of the ReUse program has always been to put unused or underused property back into use at the University. Reuse saves money, disposal costs, and prevents environmental damage associated with new manufacturing, and U departments never pay a cent for reusable items.

Garbage or golden?

Because the University is a place where things can change rapidly, a classroom or office set up for one purpose may be needed for another just a few years later. The ReUse program will take anything interesting, broken but fixable, or valuable in some way—even going so far as to put back into circulation items improperly recycled at the Como Recycling Facility—that can be re-used. "We cast a wide net for surplus University assets because our staff can often spot hidden treasures or items which may be reusable by someone with a particular need," says Chris Lynch, Facilities Management administrative specialist.

For example, the Chemistry Department recently came to the Reuse Warehouse looking for a late-80s/early-90s computer motherboard, which they were able to piece together from ReUse inventory; and the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance found a hospital gurney from the Medical school, which they repurposed as a prop in a recent stage production.

Many of the items find a home outside the U, too. Surplus granite slabs from U construction projects have been sold for home landscaping, while usable chairs have gone to nonprofits working to educate immigrant youths.

Inventory items are held by the Reuse Program for one month after arrival for U faculty and staff, after which time they are made available to the public. Revenues generated by the ReUse Program through sales to the public help offset waste collection costs incurred by the University.

Traditionally open to the public on Thursdays from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m., the warehouse will be extending its hours to 8 p.m. beginning the week of Sept. 9.

*Catapult: Several years ago, says Facilities Management's Chris Hruza, the ReUse program received a catapult that had been built as part of a student physics project.