Be a part of the reuse revolution

Suvrat Dhanorkar, Doctoral candidate in supply chain management in the Carlson School of Management

Reuse is picking up, big time. Of course, Craigslist, which started in 1995 and is one of the longest-operating online classifieds, helped kick-start reuse in a huge way. Yet, you can also find dedicated online reuse markets for things like arts supplies, industrial and commercial materials, and miscellaneous consumer goods.

Take for example the Minnesota Materials Exchange, hosted by the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program housed at the McNamara Alumni Center. The exchange has been operational since 1990 and has facilitated hundreds of material exchanges, saving Minnesota companies thousands of dollars in material costs and disposal fees. It hosts listings under various categories such as plastics, equipment, wood, leather and other commercial products. Yet, many of these items represent industrial materials, which can seldom find a domestic use.

If you are looking for consumer durables, there are other avenues. For example, the University of Minnesota Reuse Program hosts a large inventory of furniture and other durables that can no longer be used commercially but are perfect if you are planning to refurbish your home.

The Reuse Program updates its inventory on a Facebook page, so it is a good idea to frequently check it if you are looking for something specific.

Another online channel is MNArtsMarket.org, which is primarily for artists and arts organizations to reuse supplies and protect the environment at a competitive cost.

But here are the real reasons that online technologies are revolutionizing reuse. First, online technologies are now allowing easier matchmaking between buyers and sellers of various goods and commodities, which was earlier too burdensome. With increased access to information, we can all buy, sell and rent easily and with less hassle.

Second, online technologies are helping innovative partnership models to evolve. For example, Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse campaign, ongoing until Oct. 31, represents an innovative undertaking to connect residents with rental, repair and reselling services for a variety of products.

Other more formal models include online reuse markets such as LikeTwice and ThredUp for budding fashionistas. Third, online reuse markets are allowing each one of us to make proactive, sustainable choices when given alternatives to always buying new. 

Finally, and perhaps most important, each of us can now participate not just as a consumer but also as a seller. Go on and open your closet. Chances are you will find hundreds of items you can sell!