Impact of student volunteer organisations on circular economy: Case Study of ReStore in Trondheim

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Poster Number:  18 

Main Presenter:    Philian Boehringer 

Co-Authors:   Dorsa Kabiri     Marie Hayashi Strand      Iuliia Volchkova      Bouke Westra      Chibuikem Nwagwu                        

Norway, ranked 7th in sustainability performance, having achieved SDGs 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10, is often lauded for its sustainability practices. However, it faces a paradox due to its relatively low circularity rate of 2.4% and a lack of concrete regulations or plans for achieving circularity. Following the EU Commission’s waste targets, Norway aims to increase material recovery of household and municipal waste to 55% by 2025 and 60% by 2030. As Norway’s fourth-largest city and self-proclaimed technology capital, Trondheim has great potential for the green shift being home to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), with a large student population in which 20% of inhabitants are students. ReStore, a student volunteer organization based in Trondheim, Norway, was established by students in 2019 to help prevent the disposal of usable furniture and other household items that resulted on an annual basis by graduating students. The organization practices sustainability chiefly
through the collection, storage, and distribution of used and sometimes repaired furniture, bicycles, and other household items. Given that GHG emission quantification is imperative in addressing climate change and tracking the progress towards the NetZero, the primary objective of the research is to calculate the extent of CO2e emissions potentially saved through the ReStore’s operations. This study uses ReStore’s inventory records from 2019 to 2023 as the primary data source. The mass of items saved is estimated in this study as well as the cost saved for a single student. Using the life cycle assessment methodology in line with ISO14040:2006 and ISO14044:2006, this study was able to estimate the carbon emissions from the production of new household items saved by this organization. The functional unit for the life cycle analysis used in this study was defined as one item taken by people visiting ReStore. The results showed that about 103 tonnes of household items have been saved by
ReStore since 2019 which translates to nearly 1,100 EUR saved per student based on a recent market survey conducted in the most popular alternative store for students in the community. In addition to the economic and social aspects of sustainability, this study shows that overall carbon emissions of about 400 tCO2e were saved from their work without doing any significant harm to the environment in line with the Triple Bottom Line perspective and the EU Taxonomy. This study shows the impact of student and volunteer non-profits as change agents in a bottom-up approach to achieving a circular economy. A qualitative survey sent to volunteers showed they know the organization’s contributions to sustainability. Hence, the survey did not show any significant difference in volunteer motivation after revealing the carbon emissions savings as they had other strong motivations for joining the organization.

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