Excess inventory assists in disaster recovery efforts

With the paperwork following the last containers down the road, the Institution Recycling Network has completed 108 facility cleanouts large and small during 2005. IRN and its members have filled over 200 trailers and shipping containers, providing over 32,000 items of furniture, medical equipment and supplies, kitchen equipment and furnishings, office, library, and classroom furnishings, and thousands of other items for disaster relief and economic assistance.

For TFM‘s general coverage of recycling, see “Recycling 2002: A Primer For Fms” from the archives.

IRN’s surplus property cleanouts span almost every conceivable size and situation. There were 22 trailers filled from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst over the course of a nine-building, 10-day cleanout. There were another 20 trailers filled from a single dorm at Framingham State College. There was Middlebury College’s cleanout of 1000 pieces from 18 small residences. There was a kitchen disassembled at Harvard, and bathroom fixtures, doors, and stalls from Harvard Business School. A truckload of dining chairs from Phillips Exeter, a half-trailer of student move-out leftovers from Brown, a partial container of mattresses from Boston University. Warehouse cleanouts for Baystate Health and the Cambridge Health Alliance. One container of stored furniture and medical equipment from New England Baptist Hospital. Six containers from St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. And there were dozens more.

“A couple of new developments have made this a great year,” says Mark Berry, IRN’s manager of surplus programs. “The first is our warehouses in Everett and Holyoke, Massachusetts, which allow us to handle just one or a few items of surplus at a time, storing and combining them to make up full trailer-loads. The second is our expanded relationship with a number of movers, including nationwide systems, which gives us the capacity to handle surplus cost effectively anywhere in the Northeast – and anywhere in the nation.”

The IRN partners with U.S. and international relief organizations to deliver surplus for disaster relief and economic development in the U.S. and overseas. In the wake of disastrous hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005, and events like the South Asia tsunami, the demand for usable surplus property is overwhelming. Working with over 125 health care and educational institutions, the IRN is able to make a match for all kinds of surplus – from medical supplies and operating room equipment to office furnishings and dorm furniture.

Looking forward to the end of spring semester, the IRN is approaching its busiest season. When students move out, they leave behind thousands of pieces of perfectly good stuff, from furniture, rugs and stereos to brand new books and clothing. The IRN works with schools to organize spring cleanout drives that capture this material for charity, at much less than the cost of just throwing it away.

An even larger stream comes from building renovations and dormitory furniture replacements. These are hectic, high-pressure situations, where one set of furniture needs to go away, rooms need to be cleaned and repaired, and new furnishings have to be brought in before new occupants arrive for summer term, reunions, or special classes, or furnishings need to disappear before contractors move in. The IRN offers a turnkey service to plan the cleanout, match materials with its network of donation partners, mobilize moving crews, and schedule shipping containers to carry surplus directly to relief areas in the U.S. or overseas.

“You don’t need to look further than the day’s headlines to know that there’s overwhelming need for the stuff that’s thrown out from every school in America,” says IRN’s Berry. “The IRN is happy to provide the link to make sure that excess furnishings, clothing and other surplus isn’t wasted, but sent where it is desperately needed and will be truly appreciated, right away and for years to come.

The Institution Recycling Network is a cooperative recycling organization that works with over 125 colleges and universities, hospitals, and other institutions to improve the performance and economics of their recycling programs. The IRN negotiates for transportation, processing, and marketing of recycled commodities using the collective strength of its member institutions, and provides a single point of contact to recycle dozens of different materials. The IRN handles over 75 commodities – everything from cardboard and fluorescent lamps to concrete and Astroturf. The IRN is known for its effective recycling of unusual or complex commodities such as electronic equipment, construction and demolition wastes, and surplus property.


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