Circular economy in action at UQ

23 March 2023

More than 2,000 items of furniture and equipment were re-homed across UQ at the end of last year, when a large University site relocated its premises.

Many items were shared and swapped via UQ WARPit, an online tool that enables a circular economy approach to the re-purposing of workplace resources. Users can both list and claim, with some of the most common items over time including chairs, storage units, tables, desks, office accessories, lab supplies and stationery.

UQ staff have enthusiastically embraced the tool since it was introduced in 2017, claiming almost 7,000 secondhand items in lieu of buying new over that period.

Register to use UQ WARPit today

A sustainability success story

“Relocations can be fantastic sustainability success stories,” says UQ Sustainability Principal Program Officer, Christine McCallum, who manages the UQ WARPit program.

“At the end of last year, items from a large relocation were sent all over the University’s sites and campuses. Recipients included the Moreton Bay Research Station, Ipswich Clinical Unit, St Lucia, the Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence (PACE), Herston, Meadowbrook Medical Centre, Customs House and new UQ Brisbane City premises. Anything that wasn’t claimed went to another CBD educational institution. Everything was re-purposed.”

Long-time UQWARPit user and Station Manager at UQ’s Moreton Bay site, Kevin Townsend was very pleased with his recent acquisitions.

“Everything was in great condition. We picked up a combination oven for our commercial kitchen, a commercial-grade dishwasher, commercial ice maker, microwaves, under-bench freezers and numerous items of crockery and cutlery. The total replacement value of everything new would have been about $50,000, I’d say. 

“Plus, we have now also increased the capacity of our kitchen with two steam ovens. This should lead to efficiencies and cost savings for our clients using the station.”

What is WARPit?

WARPit is a global initiative for resource redistribution, operating in the UK, Europe, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Organisations join and create a dedicated portal for their workplace, with the most active participants being universities, hospitals and healthcare systems. Staff can then register to participate and share resources among colleagues.

Learn more about how WARPit works at UQ.

Kevin has been a big supporter and user of the UQ program since it launched and says in addition to the money saved, he loves the fact that WARPit facilitates the recycling of good quality equipment.

“We all should be looking at our purchasing and consumption from a sustainability perspective.  Equipment doesn’t have to be needlessly thrown out, when it could be useful to others. Repurposing of good quality items also saves funds that can be better spent elsewhere.”

He’s not alone in his sentiments. In 2022, UQ ranked sixth in the global WARPit results. WARPit founder, Daniel O’Connor, said UQ has showed a particularly positive culture surrounding the program.

“What stands out in the University’s participation is how much its staff seem to enjoy using WARPit. We receive a lot of positive feedback and there is a real commitment to recycling,” Daniel said.

How can you get involved?

If you’re not already using UQ WARPit, consider getting involved! All items listed on the tool are free, although the transporting of larger items may incur removal costs.

To begin, you simply need to register at our dedicated UQ WARPit portal. That will trigger a process to obtain approval from your nominated Financial Delegate (a security measure since University assets are involved), and once you receive an authorisation email, you’re good to go.

A step-by-step guide, FAQs and rules for using UQ WARPit are all available here.

Once registered, you can claim, donate or even loan items, and you can opt to receive regular emails with the latest items available. 

For new users, Kevin offers these final tips:

“WARPit is easy to use and I highly recommend it. Once you claim an item, you receive the details of the person giving it away, and then you just need to contact them and arrange for pick up.

“Before you make a decision, I suggest you do your homework looking at the condition of the item/s, replacement costs and the cost of transporting of the item to your location.”

Where to next?