Posted by Heidi Schwartz
The Institution Recycling Network (IRN) provided 6.4 million pounds of usable surplus furniture and equipment to U.S. and worldwide charities in 2013.
IRN works with schools, hospitals, and corporations nationwide to match their surplus with charitable organizations for disaster and poverty relief. In 2013 IRN completed more than 200 projects with organizations in 23 states, and provided much needed furnishings for homes, clinics, and schools in 14 countries and 10 U.S. states.
“Every organization in America has surplus,” said Dana Draper, IRN’s Chief Operating Officer. “Colleges replace dorm furniture. Corporations move and renovate. A town builds a new school. Every time, there’s surplus that can’t be repurposed or resold and just needs to go away. IRN’s job is to make sure that surplus reaches its best and highest use.”
Draper cited two projects as typical. In January, the Berlin-Boylston (Massachusetts) School District dedicated a new middle/high school. Much of the old furniture was reused, but 1,200 pieces remained that were designated to be discarded. IRN identified a recipient, packed four tractor-trailers, and within weeks the excess furniture was back in use at a school serving impoverished children in Kingston, Jamaica.
In December, King’s College (Wilkes Barre, PA) purchased a downtown hotel for conversion to dormitory and classroom space. Working through the holidays, an IRN crew cleared out the entire hotel, including 190 guest rooms, restaurant, banquet and conference facilities, and kitchen, right down to linens, crockery and glassware. Filling three or four tractor trailers a day, IRN sent nearly 5,000 pieces of the hotel surplus, a total of seventeen trailers packed floor-to-ceiling, to support poverty relief projects in El Salvador.
“Our proposition is simple,” says IRN’s Draper. “When an organization has surplus they can’t sell or use internally, IRN offers a solution that costs less than throwing it away, and provides the surplus to communities where it’s desperately needed. Environmentally, socially, and financially, everybody wins.”