Freestore reopens after two-year pandemic pause

Image of a room with a table and shelves with various knick knacks.
Image of a room with a table and shelves with various knick knacks.
Contributed image

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Freestore reopened on Sept. 6 after a two-year pandemic pause.

Tucked away in the basement of WLU’s Special Constable Services building, the Freestore has about 2,000 pounds of goods waiting to be picked up by students, staff and faculty.

As the name suggests, every item in the Freestore can be taken home without charge.

[The move-out program, from which the Freestore acquires its inventory] collects material that [students leaving residence] have that they don’t want to bring back home, they’re not going to be able to keep on campus, or they’re moving back home permanently and now starting their life.

Eric Meliton, manager of WLU’s sustainability office

The initiative was created in partnership with Martin Luther’s Lending Library and the sustainability office. It serves “as a small microcosm circular economy,” Eric Meliton, manager of WLU’s sustainability office, said.

“We are trying to collect whatever we can … to avoid things ending up in landfills.”

While other universities and colleges operate free stores, collection is usually done “as a blitz at the beginning of the school year and a blitz at the end of the school year,” Meliton said.

WLU stands out because the free store is going to be open eight months of the year.

“This will be an opportunity to have a constant flow of intake,” Meliton said.

The Freestore gets their inventory from the sustainability office’s move-out program and from voluntary donations.

“[The move-out program] happens every April for students leaving residence, students leaving the Laurier community upon graduation [and] for students moving back home during the Spring/Summer semester,” Meliton said.

“[The program] collects material that they have that they don’t want to bring back home, they’re not going to be able to keep on campus, or they’re moving back home permanently and now starting their life.”

Voluntary donations are encouraged for items that are no longer needed or in use, but also for those items that are difficult to dispose of, like e-waste.

“That includes plates, pots, pans, kettles … things that are still working,” Meliton said.

The Freestore has also seen donations such as full suitcases, school supplies like binders and writing materials, dividers, vertical shelving, wall mounts and picture frames.

While the Freestore was created with sustainability in mind, Meliton noted that it also represents a great opportunity for students to save money where they can.

For instance, cleaning supplies that are only a third used are “still the same chemicals you would buy at Walmart or retail centres.”

“The brooms are the same … a little bit dirt-covered, but it’s a broom, right? So, why pay $15-20 for a broom and dustpan if you can get it for free?” Meliton asked.

E-waste is disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner and with privacy protection in mind.

“Laurier has a long-standing partnership with Tech Wreckers, so all of the materials get wiped, all of the hard drives get wiped … there’s no risk to information being extracted from these e-waste materials.”

Meliton is also looking beyond WLU’s Waterloo campus.

“I want to make sure it has the opportunity to get replicated here in Brantford, and then long term when Milton gets built,” Meliton said.

The Freestore is located in room KB02R of the Special Constable Service building at 232 King St and is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00am-12:00pm.

    Leave a Reply