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UMN ReUse Program gives donated materials a second life

The University’s ReUse Program champions sustainability through recycling and reselling.
Image by Alex Tuthill-Preus
The ReUse program helps to recycle furnutrie and other items that would otherwise just get thrown away.

The ReUse Program at the University of Minnesota is working to reduce waste on campus by redistributing, reselling and recycling donated materials.

The program receives rolling donations, which they sort into categories for reselling or recycling, granting students and community members the unique opportunity to benefit the environment.

Todd Tanner, ReUse Program coordinator, said the ReUse Program tries to encourage people not to throw away things that could be usable.

“If you’ve got a broken stapler, you could certainly throw it away, but it’s made of metal, and it’s not going to get recycled if you throw it in the trash,” Tanner said. “If you send us your broken stapler, we can at least put it in a metal stream and get it recycled, even if it’s not saleable.”

Tanner added the ReUse Program also takes materials as large as cubicles. Though cubicles are more likely to be recycled than sold, if an office on campus is getting rid of their furniture, the ReUse Program can resell many of those office materials like tables, desks and chairs.

The ReUse Program sells a variety of materials, ranging from clothing items to medical equipment, according to the program’s Facebook page.

Tanner said the ReUse Program services a lot of students during both move-in and move-out. The program takes in a lot of furniture materials during move-out and sells many of those materials during move-in.

Fredonia Zeigle, a second-year University student, said she donates “every once and while” and likes to visit the ReUse Program occasionally to see what they are selling, though she rarely buys anything.

“They just sell the most random stuff,” Zeigle said. “I don’t know where they get it, but it’s a fun surprise whenever I come in.”

Despite this, community members make up the ReUse Program’s primary consumer base, Tanner said.

“They’re just looking for things for their home, and they don’t want to go and buy something new that’s going to be of high cost when they can come here and get it for a fraction of the price,” Tanner said.

University departments can also visit the ReUse Program and shop for materials and can get most materials free of charge, according to Tanner.

Tanner added this is merely a “drop in the bucket” of what the ReUse program does.

During fiscal year 2022, the ReUse Program redistributed 453.3 tons of material, just shy of a million pounds, according to Tanner.

Tanner said this material comes almost entirely from the Twin Cities campus and is advertised mostly through the program’s Facebook page. Though they do not sell through Facebook, they regularly post images and descriptions of various materials in order to draw attention.

Ethan Rubin, Undergraduate Student Government Environmental Accountability Committee director, said he appreciates the ReUse Program’s efficiency in dealing with waste.

“Waste is one of the biggest sustainability issues in the world and one of the best ways to approach it is through reuse,” Rubin said.

Tanner said the ReUse Program’s work is incredibly important, given the University is a sort of “city unto itself.”

“Like 50,000 plus people come to campus for the day,” Tanner said. “That’s a medium-sized city in America.”

Rubin said sustainability is a community-based effort, which the ReUse Program does a good job of promoting.

Because of the University’s size and scale, the ReUse Program has the opportunity to manage donated material in a way that an individual business or department cannot necessarily do, Tanner said.

Since the ReUse Program allows for the consolidation of donated material in a single location, there is a greater opportunity for people to shop at a discounted price and in a way that benefits the environment.

The ReUse Program is open to the general public on Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to the program’s website.

This article has been updated.

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  • Ted Haaf
    Dec 11, 2023 at 10:21 am

    University of Minnesota ReUse Program
    883 29th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    Monday Closed
    Tuesday Closed
    Wednesday Closed
    Thursday 8:30 AM–5 PM
    Friday Closed
    Saturday 10 AM–4 PM
    Sunday Closed

  • Chris Kunz
    Dec 8, 2023 at 10:06 am

    Add the address. I know readers can look it up, but it would be good to have it in article. (Hope I didn’t miss it somewhere. I looked thru it twice.)