Blue planet, green ideas | To put an end to school desks in the trash

How they moved from words to action

Instead of throwing old school desks in the trash, a push to refurbish them is taking shape in Quebec. And to subsequently redistribute them in the network using a digital platform. Remodeling is not limited to desks, it extends to chairs, lockers, filing cabinets and office furniture.

“We have to stop throwing things in the trash once and for all,” says Vicky Vaskelis, one of the leaders behind the virtual sorting center called “Réutilisons”, a young company for recovery, remodeling and free redistribution.

Mme Vaskelis says that the Canadian Armed Forces, on Sainte-Catherine Street in Montreal, allowed around ten community organizations to furnish themselves. There is also the Ministry of Agriculture (MAPAQ) which had 148 chairs that it wanted to get rid of. Nearly a hundred of them were collected, notably by a youth center and a food aid counter. A shelter took advantage of old CNESST furniture, and so on, she adds.

Participating organizations obtain a certificate of traceability of the residual materials management process. The service is free for non-profit organizations and for school services, a contribution of $1 per selected item is requested from private companies for the costs of using the platform.


Vicky Vaskelis, co-founder and co-president of the Reuse Virtual Sorting Center

We have just reached an agreement with three ecocenters north of Laval so that schools can drop off their old desks there: Saint-Jérôme, Sainte-Sophie and Prévost. The next step will be to obtain agreements with the sorting centers in Montreal.

Vicky Vaskelis, co-founder and co-president of the Reuse Virtual Sorting Center

“We would also like to create a system of instructions. It seems simple to implement, but there is a whole recovery process to put in place with the mechanized equipment of the recovery centers,” notes Vaskelis.

Prior to the online service, the Réutilisons company is working to build a network of repairers, restorers, movers and recyclers. In the case of desks, for example, the old beige covering is removed, the metal base is repainted, screws, bolts and nuts are changed.

New out of old


An old music stand before (right) and after its restoration (left). The surface coating was changed, the base repaired and repainted.

To measure the extent of furniture recovery, we meet on rue Deslauriers, in Saint-Laurent, in the heart of the island of Montreal. Mountains of worn-out desks and lockers are stacked in a gigantic warehouse at the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school service center (CSSMB). We clearly recognize the beige design from the 1970s. Under some desks, there are still old hardened chewing gums. In another room, cobalt black desks are lined up. They’re old even though they look brand new.

Marjolaine Fournier is coordinator in the contract management and supplies sector of the CSSMB, the second largest school service center in Quebec, with 103 educational establishments to manage. She is leading a refurbishment pilot project. The old restored desks come from the Saint-Clément school, which is currently undergoing transformation, she explains. Thanks to the company Réutilisons, 167 chairs from the same school were redistributed – free of charge – in classes at the Montreal school service center (CSSDM).

“We have a circular economy,” she says.

“This is the first time we have tried such an experiment. We found the labor to do the restoration thanks to contacts in the network,” underlines Fournier.


Marjolaine Fournier, coordinator in the contract management and procurement sector of the CSSMB

By recovering instead of throwing away, it is estimated that we saved 30% of the costs for around a hundred desks and numerous filing cabinets.

Marjolaine Fournier, coordinator in the contract management and procurement sector of the CSSMB

“But there remains a complete assessment of the experience to be drawn up before extending the project, before launching a broader call for tenders,” argues the coordinator.

The CSS Marguerite-Bourgeoys approach came about following a series of meetings with students as part of the Commitment to Success Plan, adds Mélanie Simard, communications manager at the Center.

“At their request, we started by completely eliminating plastic water bottles. We are increasingly favoring local purchases. The students then spoke to us at length about the measures that the CSSMB could take to reduce waste. The idea of ​​restoring the desks instead of throwing them away was born from their requests. »

The concept of refurbishing these desks remains to be developed at the CSSMB. And this is where the Réutilisons virtual sorting center innovates by offering a free platform, not only to schools, but also to all public and community organizations and private companies, for end-of-life furniture.

595,133 kilograms

Number of kilos of goods diverted from landfills.

Source: Let’s Reuse virtual sorting center

Visit the Reuse Virtual Sorting Center website

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