IRN’s surplus property program has surpassed 25 million pounds of furniture, medical supplies, and other equipment sent to disaster relief and economic development projects. IRN – the Institution Recycling Network – matches usable surplus from schools, hospitals, government agencies, and private companies with charities in the U.S. and around the world.
When a client approaches IRN with surplus, IRN evaluates the material against its charitable network to make the best match. IRN and the charity then manage the project from start to finish: moving from the client’s premises, loading tractor trailers or shipping containers, completing shipping and customs paperwork, arranging long-distance shipment, and distributing surplus to users.
Since the program’s start in 2002, IRN has managed more than 1,000 projects for 300 clients in 23 states from coast to coast. There is no typical project. IRN handles small projects taking away three or four desks, and massive cleanouts that fill 30 or more shipping containers.
There is no typical surplus, either. About half the surplus IRN has handled is dormitory furniture, reflecting IRN’s origin as a recycling cooperative for colleges and universities. But IRN has managed cleanouts of corporate offices, hospitals, commercial kitchens, libraries, laboratories, classrooms and entire schools. And things like weight-training equipment, stadium lighting, and solar panels. The program’s motto is simple: If you can imagine someone using it, IRN will find someone to use it.
Meg Rogan, director of purchasing and risk management at Emerson College, sums up her experience with IRN’s surplus program like this: “It’s just as easy as throwing surplus away. It costs less than throwing surplus away. It helps fulfill our sustainability goals. It’s the best solution socially and for the environment. It’s great public relations. We come back to IRN year after year, and we’ll continue to come back year after year. It’s the right thing to do.”