Case Study: Reuse Swap Shop – Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

15th September 2017

Case Study: Reuse Swap Shop - Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

This case study comes to us from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. Stephanie Clark, part of their Green Team, let us know more about their Fringe Swap Shop: a reuse initiative that takes place at the end of their festival each year. Organisations frequently get in touch with us about running their own Swap Shop, so we asked Stephanie to share her learnings...

For several years now, the team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has run their own Swap Shop and Paper Recycling days at the end of their festival. In 2017, the event was extended to three days (27th – 29th August), and in 2016, 0ver 200 people attended the event, with 8.9 tonnes of paper being recycled at its close.

Why run the Swap Shop?

The Fringe Swap Shop is an event run by the Fringe Society as part of their Fringe Central Events Programme for Fringe participants.

It came about because, over the years, the Fringe Society have observed that at the end of the festival where all the Fringe participants leave the city, their temporary accommodation and their venues there is a need for a facilitated way to dispose of excess paper, props and kit in an environmentally conscious fashion. Due to lack of information and resources, many items temporarily purchased for personal use or as props would otherwise risk being treated as waste instead of being recycled.

The Swap Shop was devised as a way of allowing those companies and individuals to drop off unwanted but usable items, with the added opportunity of picking up something as well. When the Swap Shop days are over, usable items are donated to charity and unusable items are recycled where possible.

What are the potential challenges?

One of the biggest challenges is the ability to anticipate the amount of items and paper that will be donated, what will be of interest (and collected) by other visitors, and therefore how to organise and schedule the uplift of any remaining material. With an unknown number and weight of items to be collected, it can be difficult to get waste contractors to agree to the job!

Paper is a particular challenge to this, due to the ‘unknown tonnage’:

  • Paper uplifts are limited to the weight which a vehicle can legally drive under so a large skip is irrelevant if the weight surpasses this limit.
  • Depending on demand, a twice daily uplift may be inadequate or unnecessary, so there is the risk of wasted resources if estimations are wildly inaccurate.
  • Recycling skips or walk-in demountable containers require space and this usually means suspending a parking bay nearby to house this. Depending on location, there may be parking bay suspensions already in place (because of the many get outs taking place in the vicinity at the end of the Fringe) which means there is no place to store a skip for the three-day duration.

A further thing for refinement has been the messaging about what items can and can’t be accepted and managing the refusal of items which are not suitable for the event (e.g. rubbish/unusable/broken items, or those which require specialist disposal). In recent years, having members of staff ‘police’ the event to avoid rouge dumping of material has eased this.

Finally, the overall aim is to move companies and venues towards not needing the Swap Shop at all, but rather educating them around how to use minimal and suitable quantities of materials, and put their own systems for reuse and recycling in place.

Recommendations for those wanting to run their own Swap Shop

  • Decide and define the timings and duration of your event: when are people likely to attend, and what resource do you have to be there?
  • Advertise the Swap Shop to the wider public, locals and students as a pickup service. The nature of the Fringe’s Swap Shop mean that many incoming students are often looking for furniture or items for the coming university year; this could increase the swap nature where more items carried away by individuals (less carbon footprint) than by a removal service.
  • Create relevant local partnerships to hand some of the management and delivery of Swap Shop to partner organisations, with ongoing facilitation and financial support from the primary organisation. Can you partner with a furniture charity to take away any high-quality wooden materials at the end of the event? Can you partner with a sewing school to pass on any costume materials?

Here are a few images from the 2017 Swap Shop:

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The Fringe Swap Shop is part of a range of environmental sustainability initiatives supported by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. You can find out more about the society, and their sustainability efforts on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe website. 

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