Thousands of duvet covers and pillows, tons of cutlery of all kind, kitchen utensiles, toasters, cosmetics, clothes and even Stereos are all clumped together in Chancellor’s court in the University of Edinburgh. Those students really must like trash – Going through all the crap and sorting it all. Actually it must have been Ben Miller, who started this strange activity seven years ago. And although he graduated three years ago, he is still involved in organizing this accumulation of waste. And that’s reasonable, because it serves a good cause.
Every year Freshers move to Edinburgh either in catered or self-catered Uni accommodation. So one downside of Edinburgh being an international University is that what doesn’t fit in the suitcases I can bring on my flight, I have to buy a lot of stuff to make my new room more habitable. Some settle with the mere basics, others need a lot of items to feel comfortable, and some have the habit of buy much more than they actually need. So over a year you can see a small-scale example of our modern society, how materialistic we are and how we deal with waste. We tend to first accumulate, get what we can get, not thinking about the amount of waste we’re collecting, and in the end we have to throw it away anyways, since we only have two suitcases to fill or an empty wallet after first year which doesn’t allow us to put a lot of stuff in a summer storage. And that is when Ben comes in: Why should this happen every year again and again? Students throw stuff away others need! These are things people get not attached to, but need it for their basic living: In order to cook, eat, study and sleep – Yes, basically a student’s life doesn’t sound very exciting.
So back then Ben started the “Fresher’s Free Shop”. Together with friends and volunteers and the support of the University, they went to different halls after the end of the semester, collected all the left-overs, sorted it out and put it in a big hall for Freshers to forage on their needed items.
But until then it’s a long way. Several tons have to be collected and man as well as girl power is the key. Using the unused energy resources of student’s, who did not move much during exam time. But it is not only time consuming, but also sometimes tricky to get all the stuff back. We filled the University’s truck we had that day several times and you are very determined yourself to not get to much stuff that other people then carry out for you – voluntarily.
And as a volunteer you definitely get the idea. And the Free Shop is not only meant to be a good bargain for thrifty students, but also be an example and showcase of how much waste we create and hopefully send out a message that we should reduce that and be more careful about what we buy and throw away. Likewise the University is thinking about options to deal with food waste as well, to go beyond the existing recycling system.
Apart from that and having a bad back after all the carrying and sorting, it is just great fun and just crazy what you can find: A doll dress, masks, a drinking helmet, footballs, badminton bats, sextoys, Chocolates and thousands of hangers… If you feel like you need one of those, just make sure that your University organizes a free shop next year and you’ll get it. But start small: Handling 10 tonnes of waste from scratch can be very difficult!
- Date: June 2012
- Location: Edinburgh, Scottland
- Pictures: Justina Adomavičiūtė