Recycling is good – but if something is not broken, reuse is even better. That is the insight on which Off2off was founded. The company provides an intermediation service that connects surplusses to demands; things that would otherwise have been put in some storage and eventually discarded, are made visible and searchable by the cloud-based service set up by off2off. The result is a more efficient use of resources, which saves money and reduces waste.
”The recycling industry has developed efficient processes to handle leftover things that are thrown away. But a piece of office furniture is not necessarily worn out just because it is not needed anymore; it may still have a residual value to someone else, or in another location. In that case, reuse is a better option, and recycling can be seen as the failure to reuse”, says Fredrik Östlin, founder of off2off.
Fredrik used to be the head of aid operations in the county council of Värmland, where he worked with assistive devices and aids for persons with disabilities. He realized that the matching between leftover equipment and new potential users was a problem.
”No one knew whether an available product would be useful to anyone else. I realized that a more efficient match between surplus and demand would reduce costs and benefit the environment. The problem is present in both the public and the private sector”, Fredrik says.
A communications service for the circular economy
”What we are doing is definitely an example of the circular economy in practice. It is about first using resources wisely, and then identifying the opportunities to reuse them – primarily within the organization itself. Our concept is to provide a cloud-based communications service that offers both matching and knowledge about the organization’s consumption behaviour. The service is based on an award-winning service innovation and a circular business model. It identifies the functional surplus of resources and equipment within an organization, so that it can be matched to current needs elsewhere. The service is user centered, and resources can easily be added to the system with a text description, a picture, a rating of the condition and other relevant information”, Fredrik Östlin says.
According to Fredrik, off2off’s system generates a number of economical, environmental and social benefits:
- It reduces the amount of functional surplus, i.e. things that are stored and eventually discarded. The service provides a clear review of the available resources.
- Purchasing costs for furniture and other fixtures are reduced, and delivery times are often shorter when the resources are found internally – perhaps on the floor downstairs.
- It increases knowledge of the organization’s real needs and consumption behavior.
- It contributes to an environmentally sustainable organization by reducing waste, and makes the effect measurable by key figures such as reusability.
- Internal transports and reconditioning of the resources may create opportunities for more jobs locally.
- The service helps to establish the circular model in the organization. To many clients, it is an opportunity to practice what is already preached (as recycling company Ragn-Sells put it when they made a contract with off2off).
The first client: the City of Malmö
”Our first major client was the City of Malmö. We built the cloud based communication service Malvin for them. It can be described as an ads service, like an internal Ebay, and the civic authorities can use it to mediate furniture, books, aids and other equipment between them. Malmö aspires to become a truly sustainable city – economically, environmentally and socially – and Malvin has become an important tool”, Fredrik Östlin says.
”Reuse generates substantial profits. In a year and a half, the City of Malmö saved 6.7 million SEK and 174 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the annual emissions from 60 cars. Energy-wise, 1.5 GWh was saved. This corresponds to the electricity consumption of 57 electrically heated family houses. We are estimating a savings potential of over 17 million SEK per year in the continued development of the concept.”
A huge interest in the circular economy
”We want our knowledge and innovative ideas to contribute to the development of a circular economy, i.e. a society based on closed material flows. The company is involved in research projects aiming to develop more resource efficient business models and product and service designs. We are one of the participants in REES (Resource-Efficient and Effective Solutions based on circular economy thinking), a program announced by Mistra. Several universities, companies and municipalities are also involved. We are glad to see that our knowledge is valued and we see that off2off can make an impact in resource efficiency research as well”, says Fredrik Östlin.
Circular economy is gaining interest in the business world. The recycling company Ragn-Sells has noted that their customers increasingly are making environmental issues a priority. Ragn-Sells is now trying to identify unused resources within their own operations, through a system set up by off2off. The system is called TOR (a Swedish acronym meaning “return journey”); a self reuse portal for unused equipment facilitates resource circulation between the branches and locations of Ragn-Sells.
”We are very pleased that Ragn-Sells choose us because they are a leading player in the circular economy. Something that we are passionate about and are working to achieve”, says Fredrik Östlin.
The article was published in June 2016.