Office Space: "Freecycling" Unused Office Supplies

Frequent readers know that I have a day job.

Next month, my entire group (about 40 people) is being “made redundant” due to the vagaries of the corporate world.

(Don’t worry, I have prospects, as well as a nice severance package!)

The other week, I looked into the recycling bin and saw two perfectly good binders. Someone had been to a 2005 seminar on FX pricing (or some equally arcane topic), left the binders on their desk, and then tossed them.

I literally dove into the bin (which came up to about my chin, so this took quite a few of my yogic powers) to rescue the binders. (And no, I don’t think they are strictly recyclable, so who knows why they wound up with the recycling.)

Perfectly good white binders, covered with transparent plastic so that you can insert and remove information specific to the seminar or project. Clean, because we work in a bank. Completely re-usable.

And they retail for about 4 bucks each at Staples.

Having been through other office moves, I’ve seen people empty the contents of their drawers directly into the dumpster.

Those pendaflex hanging files aren’t cheap: $16.79 for a box of 25. And when have you ever heard of one of these file folders wearing out? They last forever.

In the change and turmoil of separating from our employer, we wanted to do something positive.

So we’re going to carefully disassemble our desks, and offer the office goods back to the office gods. (Or rather, let managers from other groups send their people in to shop in our recycling center.)

After shopping days are over, we’ll reach out to a local school and donate whatever is left over.

I’m careful about not hoarding supplies in my drawers, but did find stuff that could have been used by someone else. (Many half-used legal pads: guilty!) I cleaned out a couple of desks belonging to people who have already left the group, and found half full boxes of gel pens (12 for $19.49), full boxes of binder clips ($12.98 for a box of 144)…lots of pennies, too.

And the ubiquitous white binders — the gigantic stack you see in the photo is just the beginning. Most of us haven’t started cleaning out our own desks.

Going forward, any group I work in needs to have a “recycling center” for office supplies — and maybe a periodic recycling day where we check out what we’re storing in our drawers and see what can be freed up for others to use.

I’d guess that the booty shown in the photos adds up to a couple hundred bucks. By the time we’re done, I would guess that our small team will generate about $1000 worth of reusable office supplies.

Wasteful corporate America, yada yada. Don’t fool yourself: this is pretty equivalent to behavior I saw in our 30 person business…but the scale was a bit smaller.

When we closed our business, we had supplies left over. Some were new. But others, gently used. 3 years later, everything has been used, or put to use. But I had supplies for a while.

How much potential working capital is sitting in your desk drawers?

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