All over the developed world, schools, universities, and corporations have an issue with surplus furnishings. More often than not, they go to waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2018, 19.5 percent of all surplus furniture was burned for energy production, while 80.1 percent ended up in landfills. On top of these environmental impacts, European corporations end up paying 634 million euros each year in landfill fees for office waste.
Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people in North America and worldwide don't have access to basic furnishings for their homes and schools.
IRN - The Reuse Network, a for-profit company, serves as a matchmaker, connecting the needs of charities and nonprofits worldwide with surplus furnishings from U.S. schools, colleges, and corporations. The Reuse Network provides a complete reuse solution, making a significant impact by redirecting surplus furnishings and equipment to those who can benefit from them.
The Reuse Network’s President & CEO, Mark Lennon, is passionate about his organization’s mission. He says, “Our mission is to address the pressing issue of furniture waste in schools, colleges and corporations. We make possible the reuse of large amounts of furniture and send it to needy people and families around the world. We help those in need while taking care of the environment.”
“Every year in the United States, billions of dollars worth of furniture is thrown away,” says Lennon. “Less than 1 percent is reused or recycled. The Reuse Network changes this story. We ship furniture to relief organizations building schools, hospitals, and residential facilities around the world.” Mark emphasizes that The Reuse Network’s mission isn't just about getting furniture out of American landfills. It's about changing lives.
The Reuse Network started out in 1999 as a recycling cooperative for education and healthcare institutions, but they soon realized that usable surplus furniture could serve a higher purpose. They started to connect with charities working all over the world to get the furniture to schools and communities where it was desperately needed. The Reuse Network takes care of all the details to get materials smoothly from their original owners to their ultimate recipients: loading trailers, performing quality control, completing shipping and customs paperwork.
Discussing the company's focus on sustainability, Mark emphasizes the triple bottom line. Their work makes financial, environmental, and social sense, and has the added benefit of good public and community relations.
A case study from summer demonstrates their work. An East Coast University sought an eco-friendly solution for the disposition of 1,400 sets of residential furniture. Their request was clear: they wanted a hassle-free, sustainable, cost-effective alternative to throwing the furniture into a landfill. And the project had to be completed in three weeks. IRN partnered with a local moving company to handle moving and packing the furniture into trailers, and with a half-dozen different nonprofit organizations to provide the furnishings to communities in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, New Mexico, and overseas in Ghana and Turkey
In another example, the town of Saugus, Massachusetts, consolidated its high and middle schools, resulting in more than 5,000 pieces of furniture being made in excess. The Reuse Network managed all aspects of the project, including the removal, loading, placement, and shipping of the furniture for re-utilization.
The project was divided into two phases, the high school and the middle school, each taking approximately one month to complete. Despite the complexity, The Reuse Network successfully managed both school projects while adhering to deadlines and budgets. About half of the furnishings, filling 12 overseas shipping containers, were shipped to Haiti. Six full shipping containers went to Jamaica, and two to Pakistan. In addition, three tractor-trailers were sent to schools serving disadvantaged U.S. communities, in Indiana, Florida, and South Dakota.
Mark aptly summarizes The Reuse Network’s mission: "We offer simple nationwide, sustainable, turnkey end-of-life solutions for surplus furniture. Our commitment is to solve the surplus furniture problem – and opportunity - efficiently and sustainably.”
Looking ahead, IRN has ambitious goals. The company believes that there is no limit to the potential for growth, and has plans to double its recipient capacity, expand its reach to countries to which it has never shipped furniture, and triple the amount of furniture it captures in the US.
Contact: Mark Lennon
Email: [email protected]