ReUse gives second life to used goods

The University’s ReUse program lets shoppers get creative with used items.

A customer browses used goods at the ReUse center in the Southeast Como neighborhood on Thursday. The ReUse Program collects surplus items from 250 Twin Cities campus buildings and redistributes them to University departments, providing access to the public every Thursday.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

A customer browses used goods at the ReUse center in the Southeast Como neighborhood on Thursday. The ReUse Program collects surplus items from 250 Twin Cities campus buildings and redistributes them to University departments, providing access to the public every Thursday.

Haley Hansen

When a department at the University of Minnesota gets new office chairs, the old ones are shipped off and packed away in a warehouse in the Southeast Como neighborhood.

The storeroom is part of the University’s ReUse Program, which collects surplus office furniture, appliances and supplies from around the school and sells them to students, employees and the public at a reduced price.

While one of the program’s main purposes is to reduce waste, the surplus store also caters to local DIYers and creative types who scour its numerous old filing cabinets, doors and other odds and ends.

Minneapolis resident Nate Jackson explored the warehouse Thursday afternoon for spools of copper wires to build a decorative mobile for his office.

Jackson, who formerly worked as a buyer for an antique program, said the value of some of the items in the warehouse far exceeds their retail prices.

“I come here to find unique pieces and examples of quality craftsmanship that’s hard to find these days,” he said while rummaging through the spools.

The program also lets bargain hunters repurpose and reimagine their finds, Jackson said.

“Usually when you buy something new, it’s hard to be creative,” he said.

Small business owner Mark Shadduck also rifled through the large warehouse last week, which he said is a common ritual to nab cheap but unique goods.

“This is a great place to think outside the box,” he said. “It saves money, but it also piques curiosity.”

ReUse Program manager Michael Guest said the warehouse’s inventory changes on a weekly basis, and its divers pick up used items each week at various loading docks around campus.

The program also takes used items from the University’s residence halls when students move out at the end of each year, he said.

The warehouse is open to the public on Thursdays and the first Saturday of each month. There are also several walk-in hours for University community members each week.

Guest said the recycling system has been around for more than two decades and that other large schools, such as Michigan State University, have similar programs in place to salvage their out-of-use inventory.

The program not only benefits the environment, he said, but also the wallets of those who take advantage of it.

“With the cost of [waste] disposal going up, it’s a win-win for everybody,” he said.

The ReUse warehouse prices its items at 30 percent of their value, Guest said, but certain rare items are difficult to put a price on.

“Some things are so unique that it’s hard to figure out what their true value is,” he said.

Jehad Adwan, clinical assistant professor in the School of Nursing, took a trip to the warehouse on Thursday to look for a desk to repurpose for his wife.

While Adwan said he hadn’t visited the surplus store in years, he said it’s a good resource for crafty shoppers who are also eco-friendly.

“The program is awesome,” he said. “Instead of throwing this stuff in garbage, it can still be used.”