Warp It at University of Glasgow

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The summary of three month pilot period

Jurate Gemskyte
University of Glasgow


As part of an ongoing effort to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill, the University of Glasgow has carried out a three-month trial of Warp It, a furniture reuse portal, which allows members of staff upload and claim unwanted furniture items.

During the trial period Warp It generated £67,516 in savings, attracted over 200 registered users and enabled the re-use of 421 items of furniture and lab equipment. Over the same period the total running costs, associated with the software license, transportation, salary, storage and promotional activities were £21,984. Hence the net financial benefit to the University over the trail period was £45,532.

The project has also facilitated the rationalisation of the Govan furniture store, which is now able to temporarily house the Hunterian museum's rock collection. The current warehouse space occupied by The Hunterian is 420m2; the commercial cost of renting an equivalent space from an external contractor, would be in the region of £41,000 per year.

This report discusses all of the preparatory work carried out, provides a detailed financial analysis, highlights any problems encountered over the duration of the trial period and presents a list of recommendations for more efficient operations in the future.


In order to conserve the worldss natural resources, reduce carbon emissions, prevent landfill expansion and avoid the economic costs associated with all of the above, greater adherence to the waste hierarchy (reducing, re-using and recycling) is becoming increasingly important.

Scotland, as a country, has ambitious zero waste plans and aims to recycle 75% of all waste by 2025, with a maximum of 5% of waste going to landfill. Furthermore, Scotland has become first nation to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Circular Economy 100 programme, which aims to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in three-year timeframe, helping organisations rethink the way they manage resources.

These goals provide a strong reinforcement for future environmental activities, and require a significant contribution from public sector bodies, including the country's higher education institutions. In the year 2014, University of Glasgow produced 1,896 tonnes of general waste and 236.93 tonnes of dry mixed recycling, the latter making up 12% of the total. With the University's carbon footprint currently standing at 49,423 tonnes for the year 13/14 and the aim of reducing our footprint by 20% in relation to the baseline year of 10/11, it is imperative for University to continuously work towards the shared goals of preserving the environment and avoiding waste.

In December 2013, the University of Glasgow purchased a license for Warp It, an online portal where staff can upload their unwanted furniture items and equipment for other members of the organization to claim. The unwanted items can also be passed on to partner organizations and charities. This was brought in as a potential solution for not only reducing the amount of waste University sends to landfill, but also to reduce purchasing costs when acquiring furniture. Perhaps most importantly, it supports a higher step of the waste hierarchy by enabling staff to reuse unwanted items, rather than recycling them, or sending them to landfill.

The project
Govan furniture store over the summer 2014

As a part of preparations for launch, significant changes were made in the University's furniture store located in Loanbank Quadrant, Govan. Initially, the store was overloaded with broken or undesirable furniture, making the whole space difficult to navigate. Furniture items had to be sorted, assessed for usability and set out for photographing. The condition and measurements were also recorded as a part of the cataloguing process, before uploading them onto Warp It portal.

During the preparation stages, over two hundred items were catalogued and uploaded onto the portal, mostly consisting of filing cabinets, desks, under-desk cabinets and various chairs.

Govan furniture store over the summer 2014

During the preparation stages, over two hundred items were catalogued and uploaded onto the portal, mostly consisting of filing cabinets, desks, under-desk cabinets and various chairs.

During the preparation stages, over two hundred items were catalogued and uploaded onto the portal, mostly consisting of filing cabinets, desks, under-desk cabinets and various chairs.

Govan furniture store in November 2014

At the same time, new webpages were designed for Warp It, on the Estates & Buildings section of University's website. The webpages provide a User's Guide for members of staff, information on charges for delivering items, a hotlink to the sign up page and a flow diagram (see appendix 1), detailing the process chain for Warp It operations within the University.

Having catalogued all of the good quality items of furniture in storage, the Warp It portal was promoted to all members of staff via an article in campus e-news, on September 17th, 2014 (for all news articles, see appendix II).

The initial response was very positive, with dozens of new accounts created during the following week. Further promotional activities included the design and production of two posters, aimed at University staff, to encourage sustainable behaviour by reusing furniture and diverting waste from the landfill. The posters were mailed to all of the University's PA's and purchasing officers, which resulted in a significantly higher number of claims and sign-up requests.

The initial trial period was three months long, running from September 17th to December 17th. The costs to staff during the trial period were as follows:

Posters used to advertise Warp It to University staff
  1. Moving an item from the Govan furniture store to campus - Free

  2. Moving an item between any of the campus buildings £10

  3. Moving an item to the Govan furniture store - £15


It was initially agreed that University's external contractor would do a weekly delivery of items from Govan to various locations on campus. University staff in Govan furniture store located the claimed items and set them beside the entrance, to be picked up subsequently by external contractor. In a meeting on November 27th, it was decided to continue trial with our own staff. This change resulted in significant cost savings to the University (see Accounts sheet below).

Posters used to advertise Warp It to University staff
Clearance of the old CVR building

During October 2014, Estates and Buildings were asked to use Warp It to clear surplus unwanted furniture from the old Centre for Virus Research (CVR) building at 8 Church Street. This 4-storey building contained hundreds of items of office furniture, as well as dozens of high-value pieces of specialist lab equipment. Over the following weeks, the portal witnessed a large increase in claim requests, with most of the lab equipment being successfully reused within University. As of February 2015, the building is almost completely cleared of fitto-reuse furniture.


A campus e-newsletter published on December 8th announced that Eco-Hub at the Queen Margaret Union was the first office on campus to be entirely furnished from second-hand furniture sourced from Warp It, including tables, easy chairs, operators' chairs, felt notice boards and filing cabinets. The article attracted further interest from University staff members and increased the number of sign-up requests. The office space is now the home of the Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team (GUEST)

Eco-Hub at Queen Margaret Union Eco-Hub at Queen Margaret Union
January promotion

To boost Warp It activity after the Christmas season, a promotional article was published in campus e-news on January 19th, a month after the end of the trial period. The article advertised free fair trade chocolate bars available on the portal for everyone to claim. The promotion was a huge success, with the total number of registered members reaching 336, with nearly 150 new accounts created. The promotion also succeeded in encouraging people to upload their own items, including electrical goods, to be redistributed across University. Unexpectedly, newly uploaded items included electric fans, printers, heaters, lamps, lab stools and a hospital bed. This highlights the fact that not only furniture, but also electrical gadgets and stationary can be reused via the portal. This is something that should be highlighted in future Warp It promotions.

Warp It savings and methodology

During the three-month trial period, a total of 421 items were claimed via Warp It portal. While the detailed savings and charts illustrating the variety of items claimed can be found below, it is worth noting that the most common types of furniture claimed are chairs (166 total), pedestals/cabinets (56 total) and desks (45 total). Meanwhile, items such as filing cabinets, which make up for a large percentage of storage space, are claimed extremely rarely and should, for the most, either be either donated to charity or recycled.

Savings generated

Over the three month trial period, the portal generated over £67,000 pounds in savings by reusing old furniture instead of buying new and diverting waste from landfill. Over the same period the total running costs, associated with the software license, transportation, salary, storage and promotional activities were £21,984. Hence the net financial benefit to the University over the trail period was £45,532. The 8.2 tonnes of waste diverted from landfill marks a 0.38% saving on the University’s total annual waste figures. The 22,218kg of CO2e saved represents a 0.045% reduction on the University’s annual carbon footprint, based on 13/14 data.

As the project continues, and as of February 27th, the total savings figure now stands at £125,464, indicating sustained use of the Warp It portal.

Warp It methodology (warp-it.co.uk)

Financial saving (£)

The system assumes if a staff member claims an item, it replaces the act of buying a new item. Each item is given a replacement purchasing value. This is the cost of purchasing a new item. Each item is also given waste disposal financial value related to weight and volume. This aspect can be customised.

Avoided waste (KG)

Each item that is transferred is given a weight value (KG) based on the ‘Measure Your Treasure’ guidelines, originally produced by the Community Recycling Network UK (info@crn.org.uk), in consultation with community waste sector groups.

Avoided supply chain Carbon Emissions (CO2e) (KG)

Carbon and other Greenhouse Gases (GHG) are given off in the manufacture of products. Every item transferred using Warp It saves on carbon emissions because a new item does not have to be manufactured, transported and purchased. Using Government guidelines, we are able to apply conversion factors to various items that are transferred on Warp It. Thereby producing the Carbon Equivalent saving on each transaction.

Staff time savings as a cost (£)

This contribution is a reflection of the cost saved from claiming an item on Warp It compared with going through the process of buying a new item. On Warp It there is no need to get a quote for the item/s, confirm the quote, raise a Purchase Order and then sign off the invoice. The standard costs across the sector for raising and processing a PO is £50- however for transparency this can be customised and set to zero if required.

Staff time saved (Minutes)

In the same way as above, this metric measures “staff time saved compared with making a new purchase” and reflects the time saved by staff carrying out 1 transaction on Warp It compared with purchasing new.

Accounts sheet
Detailed analysis
Accounts sheet
Notes for Accounts Sheet

The cost analysis takes into account all the expenses detailed in the accounts sheet as well as the income generated via recharging job lines, which are required to move items between campus buildings or for sending them to the Govan furniture store.

The savings analysis is based on data automatically generated by the Warp It portal.

Software costs are listed without VAT.

A sharp fall can be seen in external contractor costs for November- that is when Estates & Buildings staff took over the deliveries from Govan to campus.

Intern salary covers a full time position, while Warp It takes up roughly about 70% of the full time job.

Govan storage costs were determined by summing all of the related expenses for the Loanbank property, and then calculating a per m2 cost for storage. This per m2 cost was then multiplied by the floor area occupied by Warp It furniture. For a detailed cost breakdown relating to Govan storage, please see appendix III.

Total Saved

The software was purchased in December 2013 and during the first half of the year 2014, items located in Govan furniture store were catalogued and uploaded onto the portal. Since the portal was not yet available to staff at this stage, the furniture which was removed from the Govan premises was claimed off the portal by Estates & Buildings staff to mark it as reused.

A rapid growth can be seen in the graph in September, when portal was first launched via campus e-news.

In October, Warp It was used to help clear out as much furniture as possible from the old CVR building (8 Church street). Much office furniture was uploaded onto the portal, as well as numerous pieces of valuable lab equipment, including incubators, flow cabinets and lab furniture. Due to the extremely high cost of such specialist equipment, an unusually high peak can be seen in the savings curve.

The number of claims fell significantly around holiday season, however, a small increase can be seen in January mostly due to the interest generated by the free-chocolate promotion. Since the software does not recognise incentives as savings and only registers furniture and stationary claims, it can be concluded that chocolate promotion was successful in encouraging staff to claim furniture.


See below an illustrated breakdown of user activity, most popular furniture categories and figures of savings.

User Summary
A sample page documenting some of the exchanged items on Warp It
Claimed Items screenshot
examples of photographs in the image library for an item classified as chair

As expected with any project, there were certain challenges that had to be overcome.

Perhaps the biggest issue encountered was the reliability of external contractor, which was employed to carry out many of the internal furniture relocations. On multiple instances, staff raised complaints regarding undelivered items, a lack of communication and damaged furniture.

examples of photographs in the image library for an item classified as desk

After the initial launch, the E&B helpdesk staff voiced concerns over the intricacies of recharging the Warp It job lines; there were difficulties in altering the charge from the actual cost to the subsidised price plan. In order to alleviate the task for helpdesk staff, a list of all job lines for Sep-Dec was analysed, extracting every Warp It-related job line and calculating the correct charge manually.

It has also proven difficult to get University staff to submit Warp It-related helpdesk requests correctly. There have been many instances of users not clearly stating what item they claimed, where it is located, and where they want it delivered to. To combat this problem, the information pack sent via email after a user claims an item has been redrafted, putting more emphasis on the instructions for the correct use of the Helpdesk. Furthermore, multiple one-on-one meetings and many explanatory emails and phone calls have been held in an attempt to educate users. In certain circumstances it may be feasible to conduct demonstration sessions or webinars in the future, in order to ensure that staff understand how to use the portal correctly.

There were complaints raised by some staff members that the system was overwhelmingly complicated when being prompted to choose a furniture category during the uploading process. The most challenging task for users was stated to be taking a photograph of the item they’d like to discard and uploading it onto the portal. This particular issue could be solved by highlighting to users the option to use the existing image library, demonstrated on the right.

It should also be highlighted that furniture items were repeatedly reported missing from their recorded locations. In a few instances they were lost by the external contractor, however, in many cases, items inexplicably disappeared from the Govan furniture store, which highlights issues with the management and supervision of Govan sotres. This has also proven to be a problem in old CVR building, where staff had returned to pick up catalogued furniture items for their new offices, without giving any notice to Warp It staff.

Perhaps most importantly, E&B staff are still required to make trips to Govan furniture store to document newly delivered second-hand furniture. This reveals a significant issue with the current Warp It process chain, since all furniture being delivered to Govan for storage ought to be already catalogued and uploaded on to Warp It. This issue should be discussed more widely with the E&B helpdesk and relevant supervisors, to try and reduce the scale of the problem. The Govan store is clearly still perceived as a convenient dumping ground for unwanted items.

Overall, all these issues can be overcome with better communication between all of the parties involved in the process chain and by placing a stronger emphasis on the existing instructions.


Map of organisations registered with Warp It in Glasgow area.

All in all, the trail period can be considered a tremendous success, attracting the interest of ~200 members, with the exchange of 421 items achieving net cost savings of over £45,000. There have been countless instances of positive feedback, with users expressing excitement over the project. In addition, there are also opportunities for future collaborations with other Glasgow organisations, both in the public and charity sectors.

Another notable positive outcome of the Warp It project is the space that has subsequently been cleared in the University’s furniture store in Govan. Hundreds of furniture items were claimed from the store and delivered back for active usage on campus.

The Hunterian Rock Store using newly available space in Govan furniture store.

This has subsequently allowed for other projects to take advantage of the space, primarily the Hunterian museum’s rock store, which is now temporarily located in Govan, while awaiting the refurbishment of new premises. The current warehouse space occupied by The Hunterian is 420m2 ; the commercial cost of renting an equivalent space from an external contractor, would be in the region of £41,000 per year.

While The Hunterian and other departments are not currently charged for storage at the Govan warehouse, it is worth discussing whether departments should be charged for this service in the future.

The Hunterian Rock Store using newly available space in Govan furniture store.

Following the success in clearing furniture and specialist lab equipment from the old CVR building, it is strongly suggested that Warp It is used to clear out buildings for future relocation projects. To maximize efficiency, closer ties with E&B projects staff are recommended, to ensure that any available furniture is documented well in advance of the actual relocation. Cataloguing the furniture well in advance of the move provides for a longer advertising period on the portal, increasing the chances of someone claiming the item and having it delivered as soon as the building is vacated.

It must also be highlighted that Estates & Buildings are currently subsidising the transportation costs associated with the Warp It system; future delivery costs for users should be reviewed and Estates should consider whether central funding might be available to cover the cost of what is a valuable service for University staff.


Here are some examples of what University staff had to say about using Warp It:

“Just to say that the Warp It set up is a great help to me. I no longer need to try and make a synchronised visit to Govan with John and Alec - I can do it all from my desk.” - John Laurie

“I guess everything gets more complex and I note this new system one has to register for it with a whole new logon and password, so given that our lives are complicated enough here and we have so many different systems to logon to daily, we probably won't be doing this or using the Govan Storage any longer.” - Sylvia Morgan

“I think the website is an excellent idea and look forward to using it in earnest.” - Alison McGuiggan


  1. The net financial benefit to the University over the three month Warp It trail period was £45,532. During the same period, over 8 tons of waste were thus diverted from landfill and over 22 tons of associated carbon emissions were avoided.

  2. The project has facilitated the rationalisation of the Govan furniture store, which is now able to temporarily house the Hunterian museum’s rock collection. The current warehouse space occupied by The Hunterian is 420m2; the commercial cost of renting an equivalent space from an external contractor, would be in the region of £41,000 per year.

  3. The store has now also been marked out in discreet bays, with the potential to start charging users on a m2 basis for their storage.

  4. Warp It was very successful in facilitating the clearance of the old Virology building. In order to reduce the costs of building clearances in the future, it is recommended that E&B projects staff engage with Warp It at the earliest available opportunity,

  5. Efficiency in the Warp It process chain could be significantly improved by providing more guidance to both registered users and helpdesk staff.

  6. The most costly aspect of the project during the trial period was transportation; it is therefore suggested to use E&B staff to carry out deliveries, rather than the external contractor, who was oftentimes unreliable.

  7. In order to increase the variety of items available to staff on Warp It, the potential of a Warp It partnership with other charitable and public sector organisations should be investigated.


Appendix I – FLOW CHART

Flow Chart


Launch article – September 17th, 2014
News article
EcoHub article – December 8th, 2014
News article
January promotion – January 19th, 2015
News article
Cost breakdown