Online Exchange Potential Impact - Wrap

Online Exchange Potential Impact - Wrap

Online Exchange Potential Impact - Wrap


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Final Report<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong><br />

A study to develop an understanding of the benefits of online exchange,<br />

which in this report refers to the transfer of any items that are not new,<br />

through internet exchange sites.<br />

Project code: RES144<br />

Research date: July 2010-May 2011 Date: November 2011

WRAP’s vision is a world without waste,<br />

where resources are used sustainably.<br />

We work with businesses, individuals and<br />

communities to help them reap the<br />

benefits of reducing waste, developing<br />

sustainable products and using resources<br />

in an efficient way.<br />

Find out more at www.wrap.org.uk<br />

Written by: James Batley, Resource Futures<br />

Document reference: [e.g. WRAP, 2006, Report Name (WRAP Project TYR009-19. Report prepared by…..Banbury, WRAP]<br />

Front cover photography: Computer keyboard<br />

WRAP and Resource Futures believe the content of this report to be correct as at the date of writing. However, factors such as prices, levels of recycled content and<br />

regulatory requirements are subject to change and users of the report should check with their suppliers to confirm the current situation. In addition, care should be taken<br />

in using any of the cost information provided as it is based upon numerous project-specific assumptions (such as scale, location, tender context, etc.).<br />

The report does not claim to be exhaustive, nor does it claim to cover all relevant products and specifications available on the market. While steps have been taken to<br />

ensure accuracy, WRAP cannot accept responsibility or be held liable to any person for any loss or damage arising out of or in connection with this information being<br />

inaccurate, incomplete or misleading. It is the responsibility of the potential user of a material or product to consult with the supplier or manufacturer and ascertain<br />

whether a particular product will satisfy their specific requirements. The listing or featuring of a particular product or company does not constitute an endorsement by<br />

WRAP and WRAP cannot guarantee the performance of individual products or materials. This material is copyrighted. It may be reproduced free of charge subject to the<br />

material being accurate and not used in a misleading context. The source of the material must be identified and the copyright status acknowledged. This material must<br />

not be used to endorse or used to suggest WRAP’s endorsement of a commercial product or service. For more detail, please refer to WRAP’s Terms & Conditions on its<br />

web site: www.wrap.org.uk

Executive summary<br />

This research was commissioned by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme to find out if it is<br />

possible to measure the amount of second hand goods being exchanged online and to develop an<br />

understanding of the benefits of online exchange of second hand items. The research has been<br />

conducted to coincide with new evidence to prioritise actions that offer the greatest environmental<br />

and economic benefits. <strong>Exchange</strong> of items online has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years and<br />

market information has shown an increased diversification of the online exchange market, including<br />

websites providing auction facilities, classified ads and forums for offering free exchange. The internet<br />

can offer convenience for finding someone to exchange with and a wide audience when trying to sell<br />

or exchange goods.<br />

This method of exchange, free or otherwise, has become an essential piece in the jigsaw to<br />

understand how people pass on items they no longer need but which can still have a useful life. This<br />

study therefore addresses the goal of discovering to what extent reuse facilitated via online exchange<br />

can be measured in quantity of goods exchanged.<br />

The project involved two research stages, the first to monitor online exchange websites and the<br />

second comprising a consumer survey. Specific websites were chosen for monitoring, including eBay,<br />

Freecycle, Freegle, Preloved and Gumtree as well as business-to-business (b2b) exchange websites<br />

Salvo MIE and Materials <strong>Exchange</strong> UK. Each of these works with a different type of audience in mind<br />

and/or different goals in operating the website. While eBay is a multinational business, is well known<br />

and has engaged in well recognised advertising campaigns, Freecycle and Freegle are almost entirely<br />

run by volunteers and exist to serve local communities and create opportunities for reuse. The two<br />

b2b sites included clearly cater for business audiences, while Gumtree and Preloved also operate at a<br />

local level but are run in a more commercial way, aiming to make money from their sites while also<br />

giving users the opportunity to make money by selling items through classified advertisements.<br />

Twelve priority items were selected for monitoring:<br />

Sofa Computers<br />

Dining table Other IT, e.g. peripherals, printers & laptops<br />

Desk Washing machines<br />

Office chair Leather jacket<br />

TV Cotton shirt<br />

Mobile phones Jumper<br />

Key conclusions from the monitoring<br />

� Complete monitoring was possible for eBay, where greater resources on the website and UKwide<br />

coverage, together with a clear record of whether a sale completes, made an<br />

assessment of the final outcome of an auction possible.<br />

� An estimate of the amount of exchange taking place via free exchange sites was also made.<br />

These sites provide final statuses of ‘received’ or ‘taken’ for many items. It is possible that,<br />

having been listed as taken or received, some exchanges do not go through. It is also likely<br />

that some users of the sites do not record whether or not they have found a new home for an<br />

item and so this information is likely to be partial. The complete data provided by Freegle was<br />

particularly helpful for measuring the total volumes being exchanged.<br />

� It was possible to make an assessment of the amount of exchange occurring via business-tobusiness<br />

sites, with some limitations. In some cases listings on these sites seem to be<br />

permanent offers with a constant flow of some materials, such as pallets. This meant it was<br />

not possible to tell how much was exchanged successfully since the frequency of such<br />

exchanges could not be discerned.<br />

� Volumes of items being exchanged could be estimated (most successfully for eBay, but also<br />

with some success for Freegle and the b2b sites) and, using demographic profiling where local<br />

information was all that was available, scaled up to the UK. Usage of other sites was<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 1

monitored, including classified ad websites and Freecycle, but converting this information to<br />

actual exchanges and scaling up to the whole of the UK was not possible.<br />

� It was also possible to estimate from these the overall weight being exchanged, using<br />

standard conversion rates, but limited information on some of the items listed meant that<br />

confidence in the volume of items is higher than in the weight-based information derived from<br />

them.<br />

� The websites could improve usability and the potential to quantify this valuable information<br />

significantly by encouraging information on whether or not a successful exchange has taken<br />

place to be completed, and by increasing the detail in listings. The additional detail on the<br />

items listed would make weight conversions more accurate and improve the searching and<br />

categorising of items when monitoring is being carried out.<br />

Factors affecting ability to measure online exchange<br />

� The methods used for the monitoring differed for each website. This was necessary because<br />

of the way the sites were organised. Geographical coverage made a very real difference when<br />

it came to gathering data to scale up to provide UK estimates. Most of the websites monitored<br />

have a decentralised structure with local areas covered separately and a lack of centrally held<br />

data. This made comprehensive monitoring more difficult for some sites than for others.<br />

� With respect to online monitoring it is difficult to obtain data, particularly in terms of<br />

confirming whether advertised items end up being sold or exchanged. Without this data it is<br />

difficult to measure the amount of goods being exchanged online and to develop an<br />

understanding of the benefits of online exchange.<br />

� The research would have benefitted from the ability to follow up with some of the users of the<br />

websites being monitored. This would have been particularly useful to find out what<br />

proportion of exchanges had been completed for free exchange sites and for sites containing<br />

classified ads. A follow-up opportunity would also offer an opportunity to capture<br />

displacement (i.e. what would have happened to an item had it not been exchanged online?)<br />

Consumer survey<br />

� A consumer survey was undertaken which resulted in 1,092 responses and the data analysed<br />

by ACORN category<br />

� Web users overall tend to be occasional rather than regular users of online exchange websites<br />

� Small electrical and ‘other IT’ items were the most offered and accepted items from<br />

respondents who use the websites; a more eclectic range of items listed under ‘other’ in the<br />

survey were also commonly exchanged<br />

� A wide range of alternative methods of exchange (other than online) were described, with<br />

some variation for different items; for example electrical items were more likely to go to a<br />

recycling centre whereas textiles would likely be donated to charity or second hand shops.<br />

Conclusions<br />

� This research has offered some useful insight into which types of items seem to exchange<br />

successfully online and which have less potential. Generally, electrical and electronic items<br />

were successful, with second hand mobile phones showing very high levels of successful<br />

sales. Locally organised sites seem to show relatively high success rates with furniture and<br />

some of the other large items.<br />

� Clothing did not seem to sell or exchange as well online as the other types of item looked at.<br />

� Consumers who are familiar with the internet were generally in favour of online exchange,<br />

mentioning convenience and environmental benefits as key reasons for looking for and<br />

advertising items online.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 2

� It is clear that online exchange is contributing to both waste prevention and reuse. There is<br />

an opportunity for local organisations and local authorities in particular to promote the use of<br />

online exchange websites. This support might be as simple as providing links to exchange<br />

websites from their own web pages.<br />

� Whilst it is unlikely that it is possible for local authorities to quantify the benefits of the<br />

exchanges in terms of performance monitoring (i.e. adding to a reuse rate), the local authority<br />

will benefit from the exchange if items are prevented from entering the waste stream, through<br />

a reduction in overall arisings per household and therefore the cost of collection and disposal.<br />

Indeed, if local authorities can encourage online exchange or other non-council routes for<br />

unwanted items ‘waste’, bulky items in particular can be displaced from household waste<br />

recycling centres and bulky waste collections and prevented from entering the household<br />

waste stream.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 3

Contents<br />

1.0 Introduction ................................................................................................................................ 6<br />

2.0 Definition of Reuse ..................................................................................................................... 7<br />

3.0 Data Gathering............................................................................................................................ 7<br />

3.1 Background ........................................................................................................................ 7<br />

3.2 Geographical Distance for <strong>Online</strong> Monitoring .......................................................................... 8<br />

3.3 Items and products of interest.............................................................................................. 9<br />

4.0 Website Specific Research........................................................................................................ 11<br />

4.1 eBay ................................................................................................................................ 12<br />

4.1.1 Website throughput .............................................................................................. 12<br />

4.1.2 Proportion sold ..................................................................................................... 12<br />

4.2 Free exchange websites ..................................................................................................... 13<br />

4.2.1 Freecycle ............................................................................................................. 13<br />

4.2.2 Freegle ................................................................................................................ 13<br />

4.2.3 Quantifying exchanges on Freegle and Freecycle ..................................................... 14<br />

4.3 Gumtree ........................................................................................................................... 15<br />

4.3.1 Quantifying sales on Gumtree ................................................................................ 16<br />

4.4 Preloved ........................................................................................................................... 16<br />

4.4.1 Quantifying sales on Preloved ................................................................................ 16<br />

4.5 Business to Business (b2b) ................................................................................................. 16<br />

4.5.1 Quantifying b2b exchanges .................................................................................... 17<br />

5.0 Consumer Survey ...................................................................................................................... 18<br />

5.1 Confidence Intervals .......................................................................................................... 19<br />

5.2 Bias and Error ................................................................................................................... 20<br />

6.0 Monitoring Results .................................................................................................................... 20<br />

6.1 eBay Monitoring Results ..................................................................................................... 20<br />

6.1.1 Priority items added per week ................................................................................ 20<br />

6.1.2 Proportions of items sold ....................................................................................... 22<br />

6.2 Freegle Monitoring Results ................................................................................................. 27<br />

6.3 Gumtree ........................................................................................................................... 32<br />

6.4 Preloved ........................................................................................................................... 34<br />

6.5 Business to Business.......................................................................................................... 36<br />

7.0 Consumer Survey Outputs ........................................................................................................ 40<br />

7.1 Users of <strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> Websites .................................................................................... 41<br />

7.1.1 Which online exchange websites are used? ............................................................. 41<br />

7.1.2 How have the online exchange sites been used? ...................................................... 42<br />

7.1.3 Reasons for using online exchange sites ................................................................. 43<br />

7.1.4 What items have been exchanged or would be considered for exchange? .................. 43<br />

7.1.5 Offline alternatives to dispose (or recycle/reuse) items ............................................. 45<br />

7.2 Non-users of online exchange websites ............................................................................... 49<br />

7.2.1 Awareness of online exchange sites ........................................................................ 49<br />

7.2.2 Reason for not using online websites ...................................................................... 50<br />

7.2.3 Willingness to use online exchange sites for non-users ............................................. 50<br />

7.2.4 Offline alternatives to exchange or dispose (or recycling/reuse) items for non-users of<br />

online exchanges .............................................................................................................. 51<br />

7.3 Comparison of users and non-users .................................................................................... 55<br />

7.4 Additional analysis of alternative disposal routes .................................................................. 57<br />

8.0 Opportunities for market development ................................................................................... 62<br />

9.0 Observations and conclusions .................................................................................................. 63<br />

9.1 Observations..................................................................................................................... 63<br />

9.1.1 eBay .................................................................................................................... 63<br />

9.1.2 Gumtree .............................................................................................................. 64<br />

9.1.3 Preloved............................................................................................................... 64<br />

9.1.4 Freegle/Freecycle .................................................................................................. 64<br />

9.1.5 Consumer Survey .................................................................................................. 65<br />

9.2 Conclusions ...................................................................................................................... 65<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 4

Appendix 1: Weight estimates of items ............................................................................................... 67<br />

Ebay 68<br />

Preloved ....................................................................................................................................... 70<br />

Gumtree ....................................................................................................................................... 71<br />

Freegle 72<br />

Summary ...................................................................................................................................... 73<br />

Appendix 2: Customer Survey Questionnaire ...................................................................................... 78<br />

Acknowledgements<br />

The author would like to thank Kat Fletcher and Edward Hibbert (both from Freegle) for providing data for this<br />

project.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 5

1.0 Introduction<br />

This research was commissioned by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme to explore the<br />

possibilities for measuring the quantities of goods being exchanged online and to develop an<br />

understanding of the benefits of online exchange. <strong>Online</strong> exchange in this instance refers to the<br />

transfer of any items that are not new, such as second hand goods, through internet exchange sites.<br />

The definition of reuse in the context of trading raises some interesting questions about how far<br />

‘reuse’ occurs in online exchange of second hand goods. The headline definition of waste is presented<br />

in the Waste Framework Directive and the report discusses the definition of reuse in Section 2.0<br />

below.<br />

The online community is continuing to grow and there are a number of competing websites offering<br />

exchange services. Many user-driven exchange websites operate in the UK, often serving a particular<br />

niche group, market or geography. This study focuses on general exchange sites, gathering<br />

information on reuse and second hand exchange through a number of national and local websites<br />

such as eBay and Freegle.<br />

The context to this study is set by an increase in internet-driven sales and awareness that the market<br />

share of online sales is continuing to grow and diversify. Recent reports have indicated strong<br />

competition to eBay’s market dominance from Amazon (though Amazon is not included in this study),<br />

and have charted the rising use of eBay by charity shops. The Charity Retail Sector’s own report<br />

showed 47% of charity shops reporting they were using online trading mechanisms in 2006, rising to<br />

66% of respondents in 2010. 1 Free exchange sites are also showing concerted growth in use. A<br />

report on Freecycle by the University of Northampton (2007) reported just under 1 million registered<br />

users of Freecycle at the time. Freecycle itself reported 2.5 million registered users in 2011, 2 although<br />

it is not clear whether these are unique accounts or whether more than one account may be held by<br />

the same person or household. Freegle has fewer registered users and has not been set up as long,<br />

but the organisation is also growing; it reports a current membership of 1.2 million. 3 Classified ad<br />

websites, being structured differently, do not require people to register to use their sites to buy<br />

goods. Preloved claims to be the market leader for second hand goods in the UK and reports 3 million<br />

unique visitors to its site monthly, with 359,000 listed items recorded in June 2011. 4 Many or most of<br />

these items would be outside the scope of this report but this gives an indication of the size of the<br />

website. Many smaller websites not covered by this report operate within more restricted geographic<br />

areas and may receive fewer visitors or have fewer people registered to use them.<br />

Overall findings from Verdict Research indicate that online shopping is a much stronger growth area<br />

than store-based retail, and that tendency continued through 2009 and 2010. They report that while<br />

larger retailers setting up online have partly drive this growth, growth among smaller retailers has<br />

been high. It is not clear from their reports whether these trends are reflected through second hand<br />

goods as well as for purchases of new items, but the overall trend towards use of online sites for<br />

buying, selling and exchanging is clear.<br />

The websites included in this study have been monitored and the volume of specific items has been<br />

recorded. This monitoring has been aligned to other work investigating reuse being undertaken by<br />

WRAP. The volumes have been scaled up, where possible, to estimate the annual throughputs of the<br />

websites.<br />

1 Charity Finance, Charity Shops Survey, 2010<br />

2 http://uk.freecycle.org/ last accessed 22 nd September 2011<br />

3 http://www.ilovefreegle.org/ last accessed 22 nd September 2011<br />

4 http://www.preloved.co.uk/ last accessed 22 nd September 2011<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 6

This report also describes the outputs of a consumer survey on reuse and online activity (Section<br />

5.0). The survey was carried out on a representative sample of UK households. The aim of the survey<br />

was to help investigate the usage of online exchange portals, as well as identifying what offline<br />

alternatives are predominantly used.<br />

2.0 Definition of Reuse<br />

Reuse can occur within the scope of municipal waste management or outside of it, and this can lead<br />

to confusion regarding what does and does not constitute reuse. For reuse to occur within the scope<br />

of waste legislation, the item must first meet the definition of waste, i.e. ‘Any substance or object the<br />

holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard’. 5 Subsequently, ‘once a substance or<br />

object has become waste, it will remain waste until it has been fully recovered and no longer poses a<br />

potential threat to the environment or to human health’. 6<br />

For items that have entered the waste stream and are therefore defined as waste the main applicable<br />

legislation is drawn from the Waste Framework Directive:<br />

Reuse means any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for<br />

the same purpose for which they were conceived. 7<br />

Preparing for reuse means checking, cleaning or repairing recovery operations, by which<br />

products or components of products that have become waste are prepared so that they can be<br />

reused without any other pre-processing.<br />

Draft Defra guidance 8 clarifies this further, by stating that it is the intention that is important. Where<br />

‘the substance or object is being transferred with the intention that it should continue to be used for<br />

its original purpose’, it is not waste, even if it needs some cleaning, checking or repair. Where the<br />

item has been discarded as waste (e.g. at a Civic Amenity (CA) Site), it ‘will … remain waste until [it<br />

has] been subject to a recovery operation’. This means that preparation for reuse only applies to<br />

items which have been discarded.<br />

Within this methodology reuse is used to mean reuse and preparation for reuse in line with Defra’s<br />

guidance. For clarity, this means that the reuse that will be modelled will be its direct form, e.g.<br />

through eBay; its mediated form, e.g. through a charity shop or its waste form, e.g. at a CA site. It<br />

includes products from consumers as well as businesses (with particular reference to office furniture).<br />

3.0 Data Gathering<br />

3.1 Background<br />

This study focuses on internet-driven exchange and so most of the information it contains has been<br />

obtained from online sources; either indirectly by actively monitoring website activity or directly from<br />

a service provider. Data have been gathered from the following exchange websites by the following<br />

means:<br />

5 WASTE under the Waste Framework Directive (European Directive (WFD) 2006/12/EC), as amended by the new WFD<br />

(Directive 2008/98/EC, in force from December 2010).<br />

6 WRAP website http://aggregain.wrap.org.uk/waste_management_regulations/background/definition_of.html<br />

7 Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament<br />

8 Defra (2010) Draft Guidance On The Legal Definition Of Waste And Its Application,<br />

http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/waste-definition/100118-waste-condoc.pdf<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 7

� eBay (<strong>Online</strong> Monitoring)<br />

� Freegle (Service Provider)<br />

� Freecycle (<strong>Online</strong> Monitoring)<br />

� Gumtree (<strong>Online</strong> Monitoring)<br />

� Preloved (<strong>Online</strong> Monitoring)<br />

� EastEx (<strong>Online</strong> Monitoring)<br />

� Waste <strong>Exchange</strong> UK (<strong>Online</strong> Monitoring)<br />

� Salvo MIE (<strong>Online</strong> Monitoring)<br />

The exchange sites investigated in this study were selected on the basis of assumed prevalence in the<br />

market place. For example, it is acknowledged that eBay is a widely used commercial portal and that<br />

Freecycle and Freegle (which used to be a single operation) are websites with increasing web<br />

footprints designed specifically for free exchanges. It should be noted that there are a significant<br />

number of websites offering exchange services. The majority are expected to be commercially<br />

operated, i.e. items are exchanged in return for payment, and free exchange sites are very much in<br />

the minority.<br />

eBay could be classified as a household name, with mainstream advertising on television. On the<br />

other hand, sites such as Freegle and Freecycle have grown through word of mouth in the context of<br />

an increasingly frugal and environmentally aware society. The efficiency of service and the financial<br />

capital behind each website is also significantly different; eBay is owned by Google, which is one of<br />

the largest brands in the world, whereas Freegle and Freecycle are operated largely by volunteers.<br />

Classified adverts on sites such as Gumtree (a subsidiary of eBay) and Preloved also play a significant<br />

part in the volume of items exchanged and follow a more traditional pattern of trading displaying<br />

small ads. With the important exception of eBay, all of the consumer sites have a local presence,<br />

either as a result of their environmental and social credentials (for example, Freegle sites aim to give<br />

items to others within their immediate community) or because their posting rules state that offers<br />

must be local. Some sites require users to pay a fee to post the advert, and others are free or have a<br />

free listings section.<br />

3.2 Geographical distance for online monitoring<br />

All of the websites listed above have varying coverage of the UK. eBay is an international organisation<br />

with full coverage of the UK, whereas Freegle and Gumtree operate through myriad local groups, with<br />

items exchanged in locally based, geographically defined groups. A number of the local groups of<br />

each exchange site were monitored as part of this research.<br />

Ideally a standard methodology would be used when monitoring each exchange site. However, due to<br />

the nature of the sites (i.e. national or geographically specific) and the availability of suitable data,<br />

the monitoring methodology differed for each site. For eBay all of the priority items (see Section 3.3)<br />

were monitored throughout the UK and the location of the seller was not a factor. For the other<br />

exchange sites it was not possible to monitor all of them throughout the UK and therefore the<br />

research attempted to investigate a range of area types; thus a number of groups were selected<br />

based on their socio-economic profile.<br />

As a basis for identifying locations in the UK in which to monitor sites that subdivide into regional or<br />

local groups, i.e. Freegle and Gumtree, the social grade of households within UK local authorities<br />

(from 2001 Census data) was used.<br />

The areas chosen along with related information about the population of the area, average household<br />

size and position on the Index of Multiple Deprivation are shown in Table 3.1 (though Indices of<br />

Multiple Deprivation for Cardiff County Council and Highland Council are not included, since the<br />

indices for each nation in the United Kingdom are not comparable). Authorities were selected based<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 8

on the distribution of social grade densities across the UK. The selected authorities are a broadly<br />

representative cross-section of the UK, based on a socio-demographic gradient.<br />

Table 3.1 Selected local authority areas and statistics<br />

Local Authority No. of<br />

households<br />

South<br />

Northamptonshire<br />

Council<br />

Chichester District<br />

Council<br />

Cardiff County<br />

Council<br />

Average<br />

Household<br />

Size<br />

Total<br />

Population<br />

IMD<br />

2007<br />

%<br />

population<br />

social grade<br />

D or E<br />

Percentile of<br />

proportion of<br />

population<br />

that is social<br />

grade D or E<br />

35,729 2.45 87,402 6.46 24.4% 10%<br />

53,328 2.25 119,771 12.08 29.0% 30%<br />

145,266 2.42 352,160 31.2% 50%<br />

Highland Council 108,606 2.20 238,948 36.0% 70%<br />

Doncaster MBC 130,465 2.33 304,349 30.84 41.5% 90%<br />

Where possible, exchange groups located within these local authority areas have been used.<br />

However, as described in the site-specific elements of Section 4.0, this was not always possible<br />

because local groups do not conform to local authority area boundaries. For example, the aim of<br />

Freegle is for items to be exchanged in the immediate community so groups are geographically quite<br />

small and there may be several groups in different parts of one city. Other sites such as Gumtree are<br />

more regional, and have one group for a whole county or a large urban area such as Manchester.<br />

Where possible, for this research groups from each site share a geographic base; for instance, a<br />

Milton Keynes group has been selected for three of the exchange sites. Where this has not been<br />

possible an alternative location was identified. The groups were therefore chosen based on the<br />

number of members, closeness of match to the desired socio-economic profile and the number of<br />

items listed. For example, Towcester has been chosen to represent South Northamptonshire District<br />

Council, and the Highland Council area is substituted by Aberdeenshire West and Central Fife.<br />

Whilst the socio-demographic profile of the areas monitored was controlled through selecting a<br />

suitable cross-section of area types, the social profile of the site users selling or buying and offering<br />

or taking items on the sites monitored is unknown. The socio-economic characteristics of site users<br />

were addressed through the consumer survey (see Section 5.0).<br />

3.3 Items and products of interest<br />

<strong>Online</strong> trade and exchange has been increasing steadily over the last decade in line with internet<br />

access, and the demand and range of articles traded online is only limited by individual<br />

entrepreneurship. Anecdotally, for every item of wide potential use available on the web there are<br />

numerous other items which are more difficult to find new homes for, such as a large range of socalled<br />

collectibles.<br />

The huge variety of items presented for exchange obviously contributes to any benefit of online<br />

trading (environmental or commercial) and, although occasionally interesting, they represent noise<br />

that must be filtered to permit a focus on specific items or item groups. Therefore the research<br />

focused on monitoring a number of priority items, which are also being investigated in other research<br />

projects currently being undertaken on behalf of WRAP. The priority items are listed in Table 3.2. The<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 9

item list also represents common household items that are all classified as consumable. It should be<br />

noted that ‘Computers’ only includes desktop computers and excludes laptops.<br />

Table 3.2 WRAP list of priority products for reuse<br />

Categories Specific products<br />

Domestic furniture Sofa<br />

Dining table<br />

Office furniture Desk<br />

Office chair<br />

Electrical TV<br />

Mobile phones<br />

Computers<br />

Other IT, e.g. peripherals, printers & laptops<br />

Washing machines<br />

Textiles Leather jacket<br />

Cotton shirt<br />

Jumper<br />

For each of the exchange websites, the same priority items were monitored. Monitoring the priority<br />

items involved a search for key words, e.g. ‘television’ to provide a list of all televisions listed. The<br />

search was not more specific, i.e. for a particular size or brand of item. Some refining was undertaken<br />

if it was obvious from the picture or the description that the search result was not the actual priority<br />

item. This method allowed the monitoring to include results from all of the different categories; for<br />

example, a search for ‘cotton shirt’ would result in a list of items from all categories – including<br />

men’s, women’s and children’s clothing. For eBay, due to the size of the site and number of listings<br />

per day, further refining of the search criteria was required in some instances; for example, for ‘other<br />

IT’ or office furniture.<br />

For Freegle, two additional categories were introduced: small and large electrical items, at the<br />

expense of washing machines. Small electrical items include products such as toasters, food<br />

processors and hair dryers and large electrical items include washing machines, fridges and<br />

dishwashers. This change facilitated more detailed analysis of the Freegle data, but as the change<br />

arose after the monitoring of eBay was completed, it does cause a minor inconsistency in how the<br />

results of the monitoring are reported. If small and large electrical item categories had been used for<br />

eBay, Gumtree and Preloved, a large number of items would have been reported; however the<br />

impact of this in terms of this study’s findings is minimal due to the relative scale of each website’s<br />

operation. For example, eBay handles an estimated 1,282 washing machine listings per week versus<br />

an estimated one per week on Freegle.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 10

Table 3.3 eBay search criteria for priority items<br />

WRAP category Search terms<br />

Sofa ‘sofa’ (all eBay categories)<br />

Dining table ‘dining table’ (all eBay categories)<br />

Office desk ‘office desk’ in business, office and industrial then office equipment and supplies<br />

Office chair ‘chair’ in business, office and industrial then office equipment and supplies<br />

TV ‘television’, refine to ‘televisions’ category (to avoid accessories)<br />

Mobile phone refine to ‘mobile and smart phone’ category<br />

Computers refine to ‘desktop PCs and monitors’, then ‘desktop PCs’ (to avoid laptops)<br />

Other IT no search term, all items under ‘computing’ (including laptops) then ‘PC accessories’ category<br />

Washing machine ‘washing machine’ (all eBay categories)<br />

Leather jacket ‘leather jacket’ (all eBay categories)<br />

Cotton shirt ‘cotton shirt’ (all eBay categories)<br />

Jumper ‘jumper’ (all eBay categories)<br />

4.0 Website-Specific Research<br />

For each of the sites, the exchange of the prioritised items listed in Table 3.2 was monitored as<br />

comprehensively as possible, taking into account the restrictions in information available on each site.<br />

eBay was the most comprehensively monitored, as the site allows a user to see if an item sells; and<br />

so it was possible to quantify the number of priority items that were listed and subsequently the<br />

items sold. For Preloved and Gumtree, items listed are not necessarily removed when sold. For these<br />

sites the numbers of items offered at any one time were quantified. Comprehensive data were<br />

provided to the research team by Freegle, allowing more in-depth analysis of the exchanges that took<br />

place through this site. Freecycle operates using the same model as Freegle, so to supplement the<br />

Freegle findings, the number of offers, wanted and received adverts on Freecycle were recorded.<br />

Business-to-business sites exchange different materials from the sites mentioned above, with fewer<br />

listings of items in the priority areas (if any), because items are commercial in nature (e.g. building<br />

rubble, steel, etc). For these sites, the total numbers of all items listed (regardless of category) on a<br />

number of sites were recorded during the monitoring exercise.<br />

The monitoring and assessment of items exchanged differs between the websites. Therefore the<br />

method used to monitor site activity and exchanges has been adjusted on a case-by-case basis. For<br />

example, eBay has strict use of some very descriptive and useful categories which facilitates less<br />

onerous monitoring than (for example) Freegle, which is much less structured and to a certain extent<br />

an information ‘free-for-all’. Proof of exchange is also easier to find/monitor on eBay. For other sites<br />

the item offered could be in place for up to 120 days irrespective of a successful exchange; within<br />

120 days, an item may have exchanged and no proof would be evident on the website and ultimately<br />

the item could be relisted if no exchange took place.<br />

This section describes the details of each website and how this study has attempted to reconcile<br />

these difficulties within the overall aims of the research.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 11

4.1 eBay<br />

eBay is an international website where users can sell, bid for and buy both new and used items.<br />

Searches can be refined to used items in the UK. Monitoring was carried out on the priority items to<br />

gain an understanding of the turnover of items – both how many are added per week, and how many<br />

of these end up being sold. eBay monitoring took place between 21 July and 4 August, including<br />

weekend days.<br />

4.1.1 Website throughput<br />

eBay is clearly an incredibly large exchange portal: in total, there were 38,789,947 items advertised<br />

on eBay when the monitoring took place on 21 July 2010. This is based on the total number of items<br />

listed in 25 of the 30 predetermined eBay categories. The five categories excluded (‘Local Services’,<br />

‘Event Tickets’, ‘Holidays and Travel’, ‘Wholesale and Job Lots’ and ‘Everything Else’) were reviewed<br />

and the majority of items listed in each were either not actual items (for example, personal services)<br />

or bulk items aimed at the business sector.<br />

In order to gain an understanding of the turnover of items on the site, the number of each of the<br />

priority items added to the site was monitored over one week. A search was conducted for each item<br />

and results were then sorted by ‘newly added items’ first. This allowed for the number of items added<br />

in the previous 24 hours to be counted. Items can be listed for 1, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days; more if an item<br />

is listed as ‘buy it now’. Monitoring was therefore carried out daily so any items listed for just one day<br />

would be captured. It should be noted that using this method of monitoring, WRAP classifiable items<br />

within the excluded eBay categories are included in the monitoring outputs. This is because,<br />

irrespective of eBay category, the eBay search engine is not limited to specific categories.<br />

As eBay activity varies from day to day, with certain points in the week being busier than others,<br />

carrying this monitoring out for the full week ensured that results were not affected by these<br />

changeable levels of activity. The results of this monitoring exercise can then be extrapolated to give<br />

general estimates of the number of products listed on eBay per year, although with just one week of<br />

monitoring it is not possible to make realistic adjustments for annual variations in throughput.<br />

Variations such as spring cleaning and the post-Christmas clear out have not been accounted for in<br />

this research and neither have other religious festivals involving gifts, the impacts of house<br />

clearances, deaths, or bankruptcy. Monitoring the websites during the summer months (when<br />

individuals and families are often on holiday) may also have an impact on the volume of exchanges.<br />

These omissions may lead to some degree of underestimation of the total volumes offered and<br />

exchanged in a year. However, it has been assumed that any seasonal or event-related fluctuations<br />

balance out over a year, and that therefore a full-year estimate can be based on a single week of<br />

monitoring.<br />

4.1.2 Proportion sold<br />

To estimate the proportion of listed items that actually result in a sale, further monitoring was carried<br />

out. This monitoring was done for priority items listed for auction only. A search for each item was<br />

conducted and results were sorted by ‘ending soonest’. This meant that items were effectively sorted<br />

randomly, and factors such as starting price and item description did not influence the items selected<br />

for monitoring. There is some agreement that items sell best at certain times, in particular on<br />

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, 9 with fewer items sold on Friday and Saturday<br />

nights when people are more often out, and during the day when many people are at work. To take<br />

account of peak and non-peak times, 100 items in each priority category were monitored; half of<br />

them were monitored during peak times (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening) and half were<br />

monitored during non-peak times, i.e. weekday afternoons. The aim of this was to ensure that neither<br />

peak nor non-peak activity periods would dominate the results. For some categories there were not<br />

9 http://reviews.ebay.co.uk/When-is-the-best-time-to-list-on-ebay_W0QQugidZ10000000012295127<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 12

enough items listed during either the busy or quiet periods and therefore monitoring took place over<br />

a longer time period until results for 100 items were obtained.<br />

It should be noted that ‘buy it now’ items were not included in this monitoring exercise. ‘Buy it now’<br />

items can be sold at any time and cannot be randomised by sorting ‘ending soonest’, so could not be<br />

monitored in the same way as auction items.<br />

4.2 Free exchange websites<br />

These sites facilitate exchange without compensation (payment). It has been assumed that all items<br />

on such sites are being exchanged for reuse when they are exchanged. The free exchange sites<br />

present an opportunity to benevolently seek an alternative outlet for unwanted items. The two sites<br />

to which this applies and are included in this study are Freecycle and Freegle. Other websites offering<br />

items on the basis of free exchange are not unusual but tend to serve niche groups with particular<br />

interests or have been developed by local authorities as an alternative to national sites such as<br />

Freecycle and Freegle.<br />

For these exchange sites it has been possible to monitor activity from specific areas, as the sites are<br />

organised into groups which are based on geographical location. These groups are not the same for<br />

each site and not all geographic locations are represented on each site. However, groups have been<br />

chosen that broadly cover the same overall location.<br />

4.2.1 Freecycle<br />

Freecycle is the umbrella name for a network of local groups which users can join through Yahoo!<br />

Members of the groups can then offer items to other members or advertise for items that they would<br />

like to receive. Other members can then reply to these adverts. No money changes hands and all<br />

activity is moderated.<br />

Five Freecycle groups were monitored over the course of a week. The chosen Freecycle groups were<br />

in Cardiff, Chichester, Doncaster, Inverness and Towcester. Resource Futures became a member of<br />

each group and signed up for ‘daily digest’ emails containing details of all items offered, taken and<br />

wanted in the group. These posts were recorded over the week for each group in an Excel<br />

spreadsheet.<br />

The data from Freecycle were obtained for seven days from 11 August 2010.<br />

4.2.2 Freegle<br />

Freegle is effectively a competitor of Freecycle and runs the same model by which members of local<br />

groups advertise items as offered or wanted. Data have been made available to this study, which has<br />

reduced the need to actively monitor selected Freegle groups. These data cover a total of 30 days of<br />

listings from the groups specified in Table 4.1.<br />

The data supplied cover a period in July and August 2010, which for the purposes of this research has<br />

been assumed to be indicative of a typical month. As the research involves estimating a full year’s<br />

worth of offers and exchanges from a relatively small dataset, this approximation has been assumed<br />

to have no impact on the overall results.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 13

Table 4.1 Freegle groups assessed<br />

Group Geographic region<br />

Aberdeenshire West Scotland<br />

Central Fife<br />

Edinburgh<br />

Flintshire Wales<br />

Caerphilly<br />

Welshpool, Newtown and Montgomery<br />

Bognor England<br />

Greencycle (Brighton)<br />

Havant<br />

Rotherham<br />

Towcester<br />

4.2.3 Quantifying exchanges on Freegle and Freecycle<br />

Neither of these sites offer any sort of categorisation with listings and the entire process is driven by<br />

the use of four key ‘Listing Status’ terms: offered, received, wanted and taken. These terms, along<br />

with a basic item description and the location of the item, should appear in the subject of the listings<br />

which are held in a forum-style webpage. This makes monitoring for the purposes of this report<br />

difficult, as the only way of categorising items is to read each line, identify the item, derive the<br />

classification (offered, taken, etc.) and then try and locate a matching pair which would suggest that<br />

an exchange has occurred. For example, an ‘offered’ item is commonly followed up by a ‘taken’ entry<br />

which contains most of the same text in the subject field.<br />

As described in Section 3.3, the item categories used for the Freegle analysis were expanded beyond<br />

the WRAP categories and took the form of a series of item-specific subcategories. The most<br />

significant of these subcategories fall under the small and large electrical item groups specified by<br />

WRAP and these are included in Table 4.2.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 14

Table 4.2 Electrical item subcategories<br />

Large electrical items Small electrical items<br />

Fridge/Fridge-Freezer/Freezer Lighting<br />

Large electrical garden tools Video/DVD, Games, Consoles, Digital<br />

receivers<br />

Washing machines/Washer drier Hi-fi separates<br />

Musical instruments (keyboards,<br />

organs)<br />

Microwave ovens<br />

Sunbed Fan<br />

Air conditioning/dehumidifying Small electrical garden equipment<br />

equipment<br />

Dishwasher Toaster, kettles, food processing<br />

equipment<br />

Cooking equipment Sewing machine<br />

Vacuum cleaners Irons<br />

Beauty electricals<br />

The process of matching pairs of listing statuses relies heavily on the user-supplied information,<br />

which rarely conforms to the rules set out for the site. Each listing has a listing status as described<br />

above, but how these are paired, i.e. which status listing is the opposite of another, has been<br />

assumed based on provisional monitoring of obvious matched pairs. There are four matched pairs:<br />

� Offered/Taken<br />

� Wanted/Received<br />

� Offered/Received<br />

� Wanted/Taken<br />

Although the total number of listings falling under each listing status has been recorded, confirmation<br />

of a link between the matched pair combination and successful exchange has not been made. It is<br />

possible that a matched pair does not always indicate a successful exchange as an online agreement<br />

to make the exchange may prove more difficult to arrange in reality. It is also quite probable that<br />

some exchanges take place without either a ‘taken’ or ‘received’ notice being posted. Existing<br />

information does not make it possible to establish with greater certainty than this whether exchanges<br />

have taken place.<br />

4.3 Gumtree<br />

Gumtree is a classified ads website that operates in 60 cities across six countries. Gumtree is the UK’s<br />

biggest website for local community advertising 10 and is part of the eBay family. Users can post<br />

adverts for a huge range of items and services within their local area. ‘For Sale’ adverts appear on the<br />

site for 45 days in London and 120 days elsewhere before expiring. Adverts can be deleted prior to<br />

this at any time, or can be renewed using ‘bump up’, which will reset the advert and return it to the<br />

top of the advert listings.<br />

10 http://sheffield.gumtree.com/about_us.html<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 15

4.3.1 Quantifying sales on Gumtree<br />

Items are advertised locally, so the numbers of each priority item listed for sale in each of the five<br />

chosen areas were recorded. As Towcester, Chichester and Doncaster are not on Gumtree, the<br />

closest available areas were used instead, these being Milton Keynes, Portsmouth and Sheffield<br />

respectively. There are demographic differences between, for example, Towcester (a small market<br />

town in an affluent rural area) and Milton Keynes (a large town with a mixed population). However<br />

the Gumtree groups are generally regional or city-wide and therefore it has been necessary to use<br />

these alternative locations. The chosen areas of Towcester, Chichester and Doncaster are assumed to<br />

fall within the Gumtree groups of Milton Keynes, Portsmouth and Sheffield. We acknowledge that the<br />

Gumtree groups may not have the demographic profile of the local authorities listed in Table 3.1, but<br />

due to the nature of the website it is not possible to identify a specific socio-economic profile.<br />

Other issues associated with monitoring Gumtree listings include the variability of group usage and<br />

geographic anomalies of group boundaries. It has not been possible to review the level of usage and<br />

socio-demographic profile of users of every group in the UK and so the groups used may not be<br />

representative of the UK as a whole. Future research on website usage could incorporate an<br />

assessment of site users but this would either have to focus on a relatively small sample and be<br />

locally representative, or be a significantly larger research project in order to be representative of the<br />

UK. The research that has been conducted is therefore likely to be indicative of website usage rather<br />

than representative of usage.<br />

The priority item monitoring shows the scale that Gumtree operates on, relative to other sites<br />

monitored for this project. It does not, however, show how many items are actually sold through<br />

Gumtree. There is no straightforward way to determine if an item has been sold or not; many adverts<br />

are left online even after the item has sold and others may be removed early.<br />

Gumtree adverts were sampled on 8 September 2010. Gumtree was only monitored for one day<br />

because items remain advertised for 30 days; therefore one month of advertised items can be<br />

monitored in one day.<br />

4.4 Preloved<br />

Preloved is a classified ads website, where users can advertise items for sale. Searches for a specific<br />

item will bring up local adverts first, followed by regional ones and then national ones.<br />

4.4.1 Quantifying sales on Preloved<br />

Towcester and Chichester are not areas listed on Preloved (the same problem that arose for<br />

Gumtree); so Milton Keynes and Portsmouth were used instead as these groups on Preloved<br />

appeared to cover Towcester and Chichester. The numbers of each priority item advertised in each of<br />

these areas were recorded, but again this is not indicative of how many items were actually sold.<br />

Preloved was monitored on 9 September 2010. One day’s monitoring was taken to be sufficient<br />

because items remain advertised for 30 days, and therefore one month of advertised items can be<br />

monitored in one day.<br />

4.5 Business-to-business (b2b)<br />

Business-to-business exchange sites are similar in function to all of the above portals (except eBay),<br />

but they serve only the commercial sector. There are a number of providers but the total number of<br />

listings available for exchange is much smaller than from the non-commercial sites. This difference is<br />

attributable to two core factors: (outsourced) procurement and the need to recoup expenditure.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 16

Outsourced procurement refers to the purchasing habits of organisations. Many businesses use a<br />

third party to procure particular items such as IT equipment and therefore neither they, nor the<br />

company procuring on their behalf, are likely to buy or sell though an online exchange (even if they<br />

do source second hand items elsewhere). IT equipment is unlikely to be listed on a b2b free<br />

exchange site, as the equipment is often owned on a limited-term contract at the end of which the<br />

equipment is returned. One site monitored for this study was the South Yorkshire EastEx portal<br />

(www.eastex.org.uk/south) and only 106 items were listed in six months: an average of less than 18<br />

listings per month. This can be compared to Freegle Rotherham, a similar but smaller geographic<br />

location, where 18 listings are added every two days and the difference in scale is clearly apparent.<br />

Despite the difference in operating area which may have a limited impact on item turnover, the key<br />

difference arises from the sheer volume of potential users from the residential sector over those from<br />

a commercial background. Furthermore, the larger range of items derived from exchanges within the<br />

household sector compared with b2b also has a significant impact on overall volumes and types of<br />

items listed.<br />

B2b listings tend to be classified-type adverts under a range of categories. Most of the adverts are<br />

brief and include contact details which are visible if you are a member of the site.<br />

4.5.1 Quantifying b2b exchanges<br />

Due to the overall volume of listings, monitoring of b2b sites was relatively simple. Additionally the<br />

majority of listings appeared to be semi-permanent, consisting of repeat listings or regular byproducts<br />

from different commercial/ industrial processes.<br />

The types of items listed on the b2b sites are very different from those listed on the public sites, and<br />

rarely if ever include listing for the priority items to be monitored for this research (see Table 3.2).<br />

Many of the items appear to be materials relating to overstock or process by-products, for example<br />

quantities of Premix concrete or metallic sludge (Waste <strong>Exchange</strong> had a listing for hydroxide sludge).<br />

Nevertheless, website monitoring for b2b took place between 9 and 20 September 2010. The data<br />

collected for b2b covers a much larger geographic area and a much higher proportion of total<br />

exchanges than the other sites monitored because of the lower quantities of items changing hands.<br />

In some cases, all content on the site has been monitored.<br />

Table 4.3 illustrates the different nature of b2b materials compared with WRAP’s list of priority items.<br />

The categories listed in italic bold are those which concur to some degree with the WRAP item<br />

categories (see Table 3.2); the prevalence of other types of items suggests that b2b waste exchange<br />

can apply to a much wider range of commonly classifiable materials and items than would apply to<br />

householders and the items they would exchange. The categories also suggest that some of the<br />

waste items being exchanged may go on for recycling or another treatment rather than for reuse. For<br />

example oils go for re-refining; food waste could go to food banks or otherwise to composting or<br />

anaerobic digestion. The categories suggest that there is a basic distinction between potential ‘inputs’<br />

to production/ processes (reagents, chemical liquids) and products (vehicle parts) and ancillary<br />

materials (packaging, pallets). To fully understand this very different research area (compared to the<br />

household sector) would require a separate exercise to effectively differentiate the categories and the<br />

elements that relate to genuine reuse.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 17

Table 4.3 Material categories on b2b websites<br />

EastEx Waste <strong>Exchange</strong> UK SalvoMIE<br />

Batteries Acids Ash crushed concrete aggregate<br />

Building materials Alkalis Hoardings<br />

Chemical liquids Construction material / aggregates Metals<br />

Drums and containers Container and pallet Paints<br />

Electricals and electronics Electronic Plasterboard<br />

Furniture and fittings Food waste Plastics<br />

Glass and ceramics Glass Soils, Recycled soils and Compost<br />

Metals Green waste Various and mixed<br />

Oils Metal and metal sludge<br />

Pallets Miscellaneous<br />

Paper and card Oil and wax<br />

Plant and equipment Other chemicals<br />

Plastic and rubber Packaging materials<br />

Putrescibles Paint and coating<br />

Textiles and clothing Paper and cardboard<br />

Vehicle parts Plastic and rubber<br />

Wood and timber Solvent<br />

Miscellaneous Textile and leather<br />

5.0 Consumer Survey<br />

Wood<br />

A consumer survey was compiled with the aim of gaining further insight into the reasons why<br />

consumers do or do not use online exchange portals, as well as the types of items that are being<br />

exchanged online. The survey was designed in a multiple choice, easy-to-complete format, and aimed<br />

to understand the activity of:<br />

� Consumers with an online presence that use online exchanges.<br />

� Those with an online presence who do not use online exchanges.<br />

� Those who do not have an online presence.<br />

The survey was compiled with input from WRAP, covering the themes described in Table 5.1.<br />

The questionnaire is included in this report as Appendix 2. A hard copy of the survey was mailed to<br />

43,000 households over three separate mail shots, using data supplied by CACI and including a<br />

weblink for respondents to complete the survey online if they preferred. The 43,000 households were<br />

stratified according to ACORN, eTypes, age and geographical area in order to be a representative<br />

sample of the UK.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 18

The survey respondents were firstly asked if they had ever used any of the online exchange sites that<br />

were being monitored for this project (eBay, Freecycle, Freegle, Gumtree, Preloved) or any other<br />

online exchange sites. This established which of the above types of consumer they were, i.e. whether<br />

they had an online presence or not. The survey respondents were then asked about their awareness<br />

and frequency of use of each of the sites – i.e. whether they had heard of a site or not, and whether<br />

they were an occasional or regular user. Next, respondents who do use online exchanges were asked<br />

what they use them for. This question aimed to understand whether people accept, offer or request<br />

items. This question was also designed to show whether there were some users who only buy /<br />

accept items and some who only sell / offer items; if some people only request items (for example<br />

through Freegle and Freecycle); and what proportion will both accept and offer items.<br />

Table 5.1 Broad themes of the survey<br />

Consumers with online presence Consumers with no online<br />

presence<br />

Use of sites Awareness of activity<br />

Which sites know of / use Which sites<br />

Past items offered Reason for no online presence<br />

Past items taken Would consider using<br />

Frequency of use What types of items<br />

Types of items considered<br />

The next questions aimed to understand the reasons why consumers use online exchanges, and the<br />

reasons why they do not. Respondents were presented with a range of options that they could apply<br />

positively or negatively to each site. Aspects that encouraged use included ease of use, personal<br />

security, environmental benevolence and bargain hunting, considered alongside reasons that impaired<br />

use: the site being difficult to understand, and concern about poor item quality. For future surveys it<br />

may be beneficial to include an option to score websites rather than select predetermined reasons for<br />

use. For example: on a scale of 1 to 5, how does a website score in terms of personal security? This<br />

information could then be used to identify user priorities when choosing which websites to use.<br />

To gauge the types of items that consumers are exchanging, the survey respondents were next asked<br />

which of the priority items they have either offered, accepted or would consider exchanging online.<br />

Finally respondents were asked what offline alternatives they would use to get rid of each of these<br />

types of items, for example at the household waste and recycling centre, car boot sale, refuse<br />

collection or donated elsewhere.<br />

Over 1,253 completed responses were received, with the vast majority being returned by post (rather<br />

than via the online portal).<br />

5.1 Confidence intervals<br />

From the 1,253 responses and following quality checking of the data, a total of 1,092 valid responses<br />

were achieved. This is a reasonable sample size from which to draw generalisations about the target<br />

population, as the 95% confidence interval for a result of 50% has a confidence interval of +/-3%.<br />

Therefore if 50% of the sample said that they regularly use eBay, then it would be reasonable to<br />

assume that between 47% and 53% of UK households regularly use eBay.<br />

Standard statistical tests were carried out to explore the differences between ACORN categories.<br />

These were T-tests carried out to 95% confidence level. The sample size for each ACORN category is<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 19

much smaller than 1,100, and has an average size of 218. This has the effect of increasing the<br />

confidence interval to +/-7%, and so we can be less sure of the result. We can also be less sure that<br />

there are real differences between the results from the ACORN categories. For example if 50% of<br />

ACORN 1 respondents (sample size 287), and 55% of ACORN 5 respondents (sample size 198) said<br />

that they regularly use eBay, then we could not be confident that in the target population ACORN 1<br />

households behave any differently to ACORN 5 households (as the confidence intervals for each<br />

ACORN category overlap). In the most part, this means that the results shown do not have any<br />

differences, although they may exhibit statistically significant differences at a lower confidence level<br />

(i.e. 90%).<br />

5.2 Bias and error<br />

The ability of householders in the sample frame to elect whether they participate in the survey will<br />

have led to response bias. It would seem likely that those who responded would be internet or reuse<br />

site users, as that is the focus of the survey. No analysis of non-response bias was conducted. As the<br />

surveys were self-completed there may have been some respondent error, as a result of<br />

misunderstanding the question or terminology used.<br />

6.0 Monitoring Results<br />

This section includes the results of the internet monitoring undertaken as part of this research, which<br />

are broken down and reviewed at site-specific level. Findings from the consumer survey are included<br />

in the following section. In all cases, monitored data has been extrapolated to estimate annual flows<br />

through each exchange portal with specific reference to the WRAP list of items previously described.<br />

The results presented in this section focus on the total number of items listed, rather than estimates<br />

of the total tonnage of items exchanged. Estimated weights of items exchanged on eBay, Gumtree,<br />

Preloved and Freegle are included in Appendix 1.<br />

Weight estimates have been kept separate from this section, since there is significantly less<br />

confidence in the weight estimates, in comparison to estimated numbers of items sold and<br />

exchanged. It is problematic to provide corresponding estimates for tonnes of items sold or<br />

exchanged with any confidence, essentially due to the often wide range of weights per item for<br />

different subcategories of the same category. For example the FRN average weight list includes 13<br />

different entries for televisions, which encompasses both CRT and flat-screen varieties. The different<br />

sizes of televisions, coupled with the different types of television, means that the weight can vary<br />

from 4.4 kg to 31.0 kg. The average weight across the range of average weights for the 13 different<br />

types of televisions is 14.4 kg per item. However, it is problematic to apply this figure as an average<br />

weight for televisions, since the distribution of weights (i.e. the relative numbers of items of lower<br />

and higher weights) is not known, due to a lack of knowledge about subcategories of items (in this<br />

example relating to different types of televisions).<br />

Moreover, this method of applying average weights per item in order to arrive at a total estimated<br />

tonnage can obscure the true success of exchange sites. Measures of success that are more valid<br />

might arguably be related to the number of items exchanged, awareness of online exchange<br />

communities and levels of usage of their sites.<br />

6.1 eBay monitoring results<br />

6.1.1 Priority items added per week<br />

The total numbers of each ‘priority’ item added to eBay for auction over the course of one week<br />

throughout the UK are shown in Table 6.1. The results for the one week that the monitoring took<br />

place have been extrapolated to give an estimate of the numbers of these items added to eBay each<br />

year, on the basis of the assumption that that one week can be taken as typical. A repeat of this<br />

exercise over a number of other weeks would improve confidence in the estimates and make it<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 20

possible to identify errors. However, in this case the exercise was to find out whether monitoring<br />

could effectively be carried out and, if so, to provide an indication of what the results might be.<br />

Table 6.1 Number of items added to eBay in one week<br />

Item Total added in 1<br />

week<br />

Total for year<br />

(rounded estimate)<br />

Sofa 4,210 218,900<br />

Dining table 3,364 174,900<br />

Office desk 207 10,800<br />

Office chair 678 35,300<br />

TV 4,263 221,700<br />

Mobile phone 22,794 1,185,300<br />

Computers 962 50,000<br />

Other IT 3,305 171,900<br />

Washing machine 1,071 55,700<br />

Leather jacket 3,995 207,700<br />

Cotton shirt 17,236 896,300<br />

Jumper 19,803 1,029,800<br />

The largest category in terms of total number of items added per week is shown as mobile phones,<br />

followed by jumpers and cotton shirts. The smallest categories were in the office furniture category –<br />

‘office desks’ was the smallest item category, with office chairs the second smallest. Figure 6.1<br />

presents these findings in chart form.<br />

Figure 6.1 Total items added in one week on eBay<br />

Number of items added<br />

25,000<br />

20,000<br />

15,000<br />

10,000<br />

5,000<br />

0<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 21

6.1.2 Proportions of items sold<br />

The proportions of each type of item listed that are then sold are illustrated in Figure 6.2. The figure<br />

suggests that the majority of the mobile phones advertised on eBay are actually sold, whereas the<br />

turnover for other items is much lower. For example, whilst large quantities of clothing are<br />

advertised, the proportion of cotton shirts and jumpers sold is much lower.<br />

Figure 6.2 Proportion of items sold on eBay<br />

% sold<br />

90%<br />

80%<br />

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

Looking in further detail at the proportion of items sold, Figure 6.3 shows the average final bid price<br />

for each type of item.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 22

Figure 6.3 Average final bid price of items sold on eBay<br />

Cotton shirts and jumpers have the lowest average final bid, both in the region of £5. Sofas actually<br />

have the highest average final bid price of approximately £110. Mobile phones have an average final<br />

selling price of approximately £79.<br />

Figure 6.4 Average final bid for sold items and average starting bid of unsold items on eBay<br />

Cost (£)<br />

Average final bid (£)<br />

£120.00<br />

£100.00<br />

£80.00<br />

£60.00<br />

£40.00<br />

£20.00<br />

£0.00<br />

£180.00<br />

£160.00<br />

£140.00<br />

£120.00<br />

£100.00<br />

£80.00<br />

£60.00<br />

£40.00<br />

£20.00<br />

£0.00<br />

Average<br />

final bid for<br />

sold items<br />

Average<br />

starting<br />

price of<br />

unsold<br />

items<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 23

Comparing the average final bid price for items that have sold with the average starting price of<br />

unsold items reveals that in many cases unsold items have been listed with a starting price higher<br />

than the average selling price. The only categories where average starting prices for unsold items<br />

were lower than the average sales price were ‘office chairs’ and ‘other IT’. This could suggest that<br />

these items are less popular than other items on eBay, as some were not selling even when the seller<br />

was asking for a lower price than the average person was willing to pay. It seems from these results<br />

that many sellers overestimated the value of their items, washing machines in particular, with some<br />

sellers asking for a starting price of over double what the average person pays. This suggests that<br />

these sellers do not allow adequately for depreciation. There is potentially an additional element of<br />

risk in buying washing machines due to the combination of water and electricity in a single machine,<br />

although Figure 6.2 shows that washing machines listed are more likely to sell than most other types<br />

of item.<br />

Figure 6.5 compares the proportion of each type of item sold with their average final bid. It can be<br />

seen from the graph that the higher-priced items generally sell better than the lower-priced ones. For<br />

example, mobile phones and washing machines are both high-priced items that sold the best during<br />

this monitoring exercise. An exception to this pattern is sofas, which have a high average final price<br />

but did not sell as well as the other highly priced items.<br />

Figure 6.5 Proportion of items sold by average final bid on eBay<br />

Average final bid<br />

£120.00<br />

£100.00<br />

£80.00<br />

£60.00<br />

£40.00<br />

£20.00<br />

£0.00<br />

0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%<br />

Proportion sold<br />

Figure 6.6 shows the proportion of items sold by the average number listed, derived from the weekly<br />

monitoring of each type of item. The graph shows that mobile phones again are an important eBay<br />

item, with the highest proportion of sales but also a very high number listed on the site at any one<br />

time. Whilst there are a very high number of jumpers and cotton shirts listed on eBay, the proportion<br />

of sales of these items were the lowest of all the items that were monitored.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 24

Figure 6.6 Proportion sold by average number listed on eBay<br />

Average number listed<br />

25000<br />

20000<br />

15000<br />

10000<br />

Jumper<br />

Cotton shirt<br />

Mobile phone<br />

5000<br />

0<br />

Leather jacket<br />

Other IT<br />

Sofa<br />

TV<br />

Dining table<br />

Office chair<br />

Desk Computer<br />

Washing machine<br />

0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%<br />

Proportion sold<br />

Comparing the numbers of items added with the proportion of items sold produces an estimate of the<br />

number of each item sold each week. Whilst Figure 6.6 suggests that proportionately cotton shirts<br />

and jumpers do not sell well on eBay compared with other items, Table 6.2 and Figure 6.7 show that<br />

a relatively high number of these items are added each week and that consequently shirts and<br />

jumpers combined are second only to mobile phones in estimated number of items sold.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 25

Table 6.2 Estimated numbers of items actually sold on eBay in one week<br />

Item Total added in<br />

1 week<br />

Proportion sold Estimated<br />

number sold per<br />

week<br />

Sofa 4,210 47% 1,979<br />

Dining table 3,364 46% 1,547<br />

Office desk 207 38% 79<br />

Office chair 678 42% 285<br />

TV 4,263 67% 2,856<br />

Mobile phone 22,794 82% 18,691<br />

Computers* 962 57% 548<br />

Other IT 3,305 39% 1,289<br />

Washing machine 1,071 79% 846<br />

Leather jacket 3,995 49% 1,958<br />

Cotton shirt 17,236 31% 5,343<br />

Jumper 19,803 34% 6,733<br />

* The computers category does not include laptops, which are thought to be exchanged at a much higher rate. Laptops are<br />

included under the ‘Other IT’ category but not separately identified.<br />

It can be seen that the number of mobile phones sold each week is significantly higher than for any<br />

other category, with an estimated 18,700 items sold through eBay in the UK every week. This is<br />

based on items listed under the eBay category ‘Mobile and Smart Phones’, which excludes mobile<br />

phone accessories but includes sim card-only ‘deals’. About 7,000 jumpers and 5,000 cotton shirts are<br />

sold each week. Just under 3,000 televisions are sold each week, with about 2,000 each of sofas and<br />

leather jackets sold weekly.<br />

Finally the number of unsold items that the seller relisted was recorded. This was noted<br />

approximately 24 hours after the end of the auction, in order to give the seller enough time to log<br />

onto eBay and list the item for auction once again should they wish.<br />

Figure 6.7 shows the number of items that did not sell and the number of these items that the sellers<br />

relisted. The figure also shows the proportion of unsold items that were relisted. High proportions of<br />

jumpers, computers, dining tables, mobile phones and cotton shirts are relisted. For jumpers, cotton<br />

shirts and mobile phones there are large numbers of items advertised on eBay, so it may be that<br />

supply outstrips demand for these items. It could also be the case that these are the sort of items<br />

that sellers are not in a hurry to get rid of (because they are small and do not take up space) so they<br />

do not mind waiting for the items to sell. For both dining tables and computers, postage is not often<br />

an option and these items need to be collected in person. This substantially restricts the number of<br />

interested potential buyers to the local area, so these items may take longer to sell. As mentioned in<br />

Section 4.1.2, ‘buy it now’ items were not monitored as part of this exercise. Sale of these items<br />

cannot be monitored in the same way as auction items, as they can sell at any time; and ‘buy it now’<br />

items that have been on eBay for longer periods are likely to be less desirable items. In order to avoid<br />

confusion when processing the sales results, auction items that were also listed as ‘buy it now’ were<br />

avoided.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 26

Figure 6.7 Numbers of items unsold and relisted on eBay<br />

Number / % of items<br />

80<br />

70<br />

60<br />

50<br />

40<br />

30<br />

20<br />

10<br />

0<br />

6.2 Freegle monitoring results<br />

Number unsold Number relisted Proportion relisted (%)<br />

The following tables and figures illustrate the quantities of items listed on Freegle over the monitoring<br />

period. For Freegle, this meant monitoring over a total of 30 days between 9 July and 9 August 2010<br />

for all 11 groups, resulting in nearly 7,000 listings. This information was supplied by Freegle through<br />

software developed (by Freegle) to analyse the listings. This data significantly reduced the resources<br />

required to monitor the site, yet presented a different problem in that significant quantities of data<br />

required a large-scale clean-up exercise. The data included poorly listed items, inconsistent approach<br />

and spelling errors. Despite this, the analysis of Freegle has produced some very interesting results,<br />

although it should be noted that approximately half of the listings provided by Freegle either did not<br />

fall into an item category or could not be classified because of listing discrepancies. Items that did not<br />

match an item category but were identifiable are included in the research outputs described below.<br />

For Freegle, it has been relatively easy to quantify the listing status (offered, taken, etc.) as this<br />

should appear at the front of every listing.<br />

Table 6.3 shows the total number of listings under each status for Freegle from the month of data<br />

provided. Throughout the monitoring period only one item was withdrawn (from the Rotherham<br />

Freegle group).<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 27

Table 6.3 Freegle listing status classification<br />

Group (Freegle) Offered Taken Wanted Received<br />

Aberdeenshire West 181 44 143 7<br />

Bognor 217 107 187 7<br />

Caerphilly 192 63 117 2<br />

Central Fife 218 86 241 11<br />

Edinburgh 1,117 400 631 23<br />

Flintshire 182 52 216 8<br />

Green Cycle (Brighton) 618 176 375 9<br />

Havant 68 25 59 0<br />

Rotherham 236 80 250 5<br />

Towcester 46 15 38 0<br />

Welshpool, Newtown and<br />

Montgomery<br />

178 46 168 6<br />

Total 3,253 1,094 2,425 78<br />

A total of 6,851 listings were made and it is clear from the totals above that there is no direct<br />

correlation between the listings status types. For example, in an ideal situation the number of taken<br />

items would approximate to the number of offered items. One possible reason for this is the defined<br />

period of data and not being able to isolate the listings that referred only to items arising within the<br />

period.<br />

Table 6.4 illustrates how successful the classification of items listed was and shows that only 55% of<br />

items listed (irrespective of listing status) are covered by the focused WRAP item classification or the<br />

broader FRN-based classification system. The table also shows how many exchanges were completed<br />

and how many of those exchanges were of items found in either of the items lists. Out of 6,851<br />

listings, 614 listings were matched with both required elements of the listing status. This takes into<br />

consideration the full range of options on listings status (Offered/Received, Offered/Taken,<br />

Wanted/Received and Wanted/Taken).<br />

It should be noted that it has not been possible to identify all of the duplicates, listings that include<br />

more than one item, listings that include spelling errors or listings that have not included a specific<br />

item within the subject line. In order to account for all such entries it would be necessary to review<br />

every listing, and this was not possible given the timescales and resources allocated to this study.<br />

Furthermore, despite being a condition of use of the site, the posting of Taken and Received notes is<br />

not actively undertaken. This could lead to an underestimation of the actual number of successful<br />

exchanges. Further research may be required to identify actual successful exchanges and this may<br />

require contacting site users.<br />

Figure 6.8 shows the total number of listings per category with clear peaks for large electrical items,<br />

small electrical items and other IT. Where the items have been listed within a wider category, the<br />

number of items within that category has been listed. It should be noted that ‘other IT’ also includes<br />

games consoles and software. Figure 6.9 shows the same information as Figure 6.8 broken down by<br />

the individual groups monitored.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 28

Table 6.4 Freegle item classification summary<br />

Group (Freegle) Total<br />

Listings<br />

Total<br />

Listings<br />

Classified<br />

(WRAP &<br />

FRN)<br />

Classified<br />

(WRAP)<br />

Classified<br />

(FRN)<br />

Total<br />

<strong>Exchange</strong>d<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 29<br />

Total<br />

Categorised<br />

<strong>Exchange</strong>s<br />

(WRAP &<br />

FRN)<br />

Aberdeenshire West 375 213 87 164 22 15<br />

Bognor 518 303 109 247 45 26<br />

Caerphilly 374 195 66 160 38 18<br />

Central Fife 556 322 110 246 59 38<br />

Edinburgh 2,171 1,212 515 916 268 149<br />

Flintshire 458 210 67 181 11 9<br />

Green Cycle (Brighton) 1,178 645 242 499 96 54<br />

Havant 152 84 24 71 9 4<br />

Rotherham 572 326 95 274 43 25<br />

Towcester 99 66 18 53 9 8<br />

Welshpool, Newtown<br />

and Montgomery<br />

398 217 88 168 14 8<br />

Total 6,851 3,793 1,421 2,979 614 354<br />

Figure 6.8 Number of items listed on Freegle using the WRAP classification<br />

Number of Items<br />

400<br />

350<br />

300<br />

250<br />

200<br />

150<br />

100<br />

50<br />

0<br />

WRAP Item Category

Figure 6.9 Items listed per group on Freegle using WRAP classification<br />

Number of Items<br />

600<br />

500<br />

400<br />

300<br />

200<br />

100<br />

0<br />

WRAP Item Category<br />

Jumper<br />

shirt<br />

Leather jacket<br />

Other IT (printers, monitors,<br />

mice, consoles, software)<br />

Computer<br />

Mobile Phone<br />

TV<br />

Small electrical items<br />

(toaster, food processor,<br />

hairdryer)<br />

Large electrical items (fridge,<br />

washing machine)<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 30

Figure 6.10 Items exchanged on Freegle using WRAP classification<br />

A detailed analysis of Freecycle has not been possible because (unlike Freegle) data have not been<br />

provided by the service provider. Therefore Freecycle has been monitored in a similar way to the<br />

other exchange sites, by actually gathering listings as they became available over a much shorter<br />

period of time and from a much smaller number of groups. However as Freegle and Freecycle are<br />

very similar in their operation, we can assume that the types of items listed are broadly similar.<br />

Table 6.5 shows the quantities of items listed on Freecycle.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 31

Table 6.5 Freecycle listing status classification<br />

Group (Freecycle) Offered Taken Wanted Received<br />

Cardiff 428 183 250 11<br />

Chichester 119 38 90 2<br />

Inverness 105 34 95 3<br />

Doncaster 66 44 43 7<br />

Towcester 5 5 14 1<br />

Total 723 304 492 24<br />

6.3 Gumtree<br />

The total number of each of the priority items being advertised regionally on Gumtree was recorded<br />

and is shown in Table 6.5.<br />

Table 6.5 Priority items being advertised on Gumtree<br />

Item Milton<br />

Keynes<br />

Portsmouth Cardiff Sheffield Inverness Total<br />

Sofa 45 170 364 227 148 954<br />

Dining table 19 60 236 144 34 493<br />

Office desk 15 53 75 66 28 237<br />

Office chair 11 17 46 14 13 101<br />

Television 74 230 511 413 134 1,362<br />

Mobile phone 119 209 967 595 83 1,973<br />

Computers 19 72 268 159 57 575<br />

Other IT 31 61 168 50 71 381<br />

Washing machine 9 74 109 59 18 269<br />

Leather jacket 1 6 14 14 6 41<br />

Cotton shirt 7 18 88 44 16 173<br />

Jumper 2 3 8 9 0 22<br />

Once again mobile phones feature highly amongst items being exchanged, with 967 adverts in the<br />

Cardiff area and 595 in Sheffield. Large quantities of televisions were also advertised through<br />

Gumtree, with 511 in Cardiff and 412 in Sheffield; and relatively high numbers of sofas. Very few<br />

leather jackets or jumpers are advertised on Gumtree, and office furniture did not feature as highly as<br />

household furniture. These findings can be seen in Figure 6.11.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 32

Figure 6.11 Total numbers of advertisements for each type of item across all regions on Gumtree<br />

Total number of advertisements<br />

2000<br />

1800<br />

1600<br />

1400<br />

1200<br />

1000<br />

800<br />

600<br />

400<br />

200<br />

0<br />

Cardiff and Sheffield are the most active Gumtree regions, with Cardiff having 2,854 priority item<br />

adverts and Sheffield 1,794. Portsmouth had 973 adverts, and Inverness 608 during the period<br />

monitored. Activity in Milton Keynes was substantially lower with just 352 adverts in total. The<br />

number of adverts for each type of item in the different regions is shown in Figure 6.12. Adverts for<br />

sofas and televisions were most common in Inverness, and televisions were most common in<br />

Portsmouth. In Milton Keynes, Cardiff and Sheffield, mobile phones were the most commonly<br />

advertised item. Adverts for office equipment and textiles were low across all areas.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 33

Figure 6.12 Total numbers of adverts for each type of item across all areas on Gumtree<br />

Total number of advertisements<br />

1000<br />

900<br />

800<br />

700<br />

600<br />

500<br />

400<br />

300<br />

200<br />

100<br />

0<br />

6.4 Preloved<br />

Milton Keynes Portsmouth Cardiff Sheffield Inverness<br />

Activity on Preloved is much lower than that on Gumtree, with just 163 adverts in total for all priority<br />

items across all five areas. Table 6.6 shows the number of adverts for each item in each area. The<br />

most adverts found for any search was for mobile phones in Doncaster, for which 17 adverts were<br />

listed. In many cases just one or two adverts appeared for each search, with some searches yielding<br />

no results at all in that area. In particular there is very little Preloved activity in Inverness; out of all<br />

the searches conducted for priority items, just three adverts were returned (for two computers and<br />

one leather jacket).<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 34

Table 6.6 Total adverts for priority items on each area on Preloved<br />

Item Milton<br />

Keynes<br />

Portsmouth Cardiff Doncaster Inverness Totals<br />

Sofa 8 5 5 5 0 23<br />

Dining table 1 8 1 12 0 22<br />

Office desk 1 2 0 1 0 4<br />

Office chair 1 1 0 2 0 4<br />

Television 8 4 4 1 0 17<br />

Mobile phone 12 5 4 17 0 38<br />

Computers 1 0 1 1 2 5<br />

Other IT 5 5 0 2 0 12<br />

Washing machine 0 2 0 3 0 5<br />

Leather jacket 7 2 1 4 1 15<br />

Cotton shirt 0 0 0 12 0 12<br />

Jumper 0 3 0 3 0 6<br />

As can be seen from Figure 6.13, mobile phones are the most popular item posted on Preloved,<br />

followed by sofas and then dining tables. The regional aspect of Preloved may make it a better outlet<br />

for items that cannot be sent via Royal Mail. Again, there are fewest adverts for office equipment,<br />

and low numbers of ads for computers and washing machines.<br />

Figure 6.13 Total numbers of adverts for all items across all areas on Preloved<br />

Total Number of Adverts<br />

40<br />

35<br />

30<br />

25<br />

20<br />

15<br />

10<br />

5<br />

0<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 35

Doncaster is the most active area on Preloved, with a total of 63 adverts appearing for the priority<br />

items. Milton Keynes and Portsmouth are also active, with 44 and 37 adverts respectively. In Cardiff<br />

there were 16 adverts in total and in Inverness just 3. The regional differences can be seen in Figure<br />

6.14.<br />

Figure 6.14 Total numbers of adverts for each type of item on Preloved<br />

Number of adverts<br />

18<br />

16<br />

14<br />

12<br />

10<br />

8<br />

6<br />

4<br />

2<br />

0<br />

For Preloved (as for Gumtree) it was not possible to monitor successful exchanges using information<br />

obtained from the website, only the number of adverts placed. It could be assumed that similar<br />

success rates for exchange were achieved with items on Preloved as on the other free exchange sites<br />

listed (Freegle and Freecycle); although lower overall use of the site suggests this might not<br />

necessarily be the case.<br />

To investigate how much exchange is occurring on Preloved (as well as the other regional exchange<br />

sites) it would be necessary to actually contact users of the website who had placed the advert and<br />

ask them (perhaps two or three weeks after placing it) if the exchange went ahead.<br />

6.5 Business-to-Business<br />

Milton Keynes Portsmouth Cardiff Doncaster Inverness<br />

B2b exchange websites are growing steadily in number and use, but there appears to be a different<br />

set of drivers compared with domestic exchange sites. This is most apparent in the range of materials<br />

and classification of materials offered. As discussed in Section 4.5, most of the WRAP- and FRN-based<br />

lists are irrelevant to b2b exchange and therefore the monitoring of b2b websites has been based on<br />

the item categories used within those sites. Where possible items that matched the lists provided by<br />

WRAP and FRN were monitored; these include items such as IT peripherals and items of furniture.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 36

Table 4.3 (in Section 4.5) lists the material categories found on each of the above sites and<br />

highlighted (in italics) are the categories that could potentially be aligned with the WRAP-based list<br />

and the FRN-based list if required.<br />

Table 6.7 contains a review of all the items listed on EastEx, irrespective of the regional location of<br />

arising. A total of 534 items were listed and the vast majority of these are always present on the site<br />

with no evidence of exchange. The items all appear to be regular by-products of contributors’<br />

processes.<br />

Table 6.7 EastEx total listings per category<br />

Category Total<br />

Listings<br />

Category Total Listings<br />

Batteries 1 Pallets 41<br />

Building materials 16 Paper and card 58<br />

Chemical liquids 12 Plant and equipment 7<br />

Drums and containers 21 Plastic and rubber 111<br />

Electricals and electronics 15 Putrescibles 2<br />

Furniture and fittings 33 Textiles and clothing 55<br />

Glass and ceramics 28 Vehicle parts 10<br />

Metals 0 Wood and timber 64<br />

Oils 5 Miscellaneous 55<br />

Whereas non-commercial exchange sites (non-b2b) have a relatively high turnover of listings and<br />

items, the b2b sites appear to have a significant volume of constant listings. This is due to the large<br />

proportion of by-products listed which are produced at a steady rate. For example, one member of<br />

EastEx appears to have a constant supply of pallets which are listed on EastEx (and potentially other<br />

b2b sites), and the listing does not change irrespective of the rate of valid exchange. This means<br />

proving the quantity of exchange is a difficult task and would require direct contact with producers,<br />

which was not done for this study.<br />

Table 6.8 shows the total listings currently available on SalvoMIE for England. This site is clearly a<br />

small player in the sector, though this is unsurprising as it concentrates on unused raw materials.<br />

Construction waste is covered by a wealth of regulation that could limit transfer and therefore the<br />

total number of listings appearing on Salvo MIE. The cost of haulage is also likely to be very high in<br />

relation to the value of the item listed.<br />

The classic situation with business material exchange systems (online or otherwise) is that they have<br />

relatively short lifespans. In the first period, many exchanges occur that put ‘producers’ in contact<br />

with ‘users’; once these links have been established, the transaction continues in private, in a direct<br />

b2b manner. Thus it is highly likely that the b2b sites monitored, if running for extended periods, are<br />

left with more difficult materials that cannot be so readily exchanged.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 37

Table 6.8 Salvo MIE – total listings across England<br />

Category England<br />

Concrete and recycled aggregate 18<br />

Hoardings 1<br />

Metals 1<br />

Paints 2<br />

Plasterboard 1<br />

Plastics 2<br />

Soils, Recycled soils and Compost 1<br />

Various and mixed 20<br />

Total 46<br />

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, only two listings were made and these were both in<br />

Scotland and both under ‘Various and mixed’.<br />

Waste <strong>Exchange</strong> UK provides for exchange of a much wider range of materials and product types. It<br />

has a large number of listings across a wide range of categories and some recognition outside<br />

England. The listings appear static, often being repeated every month as part of ongoing work or<br />

processes.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 38

Table 6.9 Waste <strong>Exchange</strong> UK total listings per category<br />

Category England Scotland Wales Northern<br />

Ireland<br />

Acids 15 0 3 1<br />

Alkalis 4 1 3 0<br />

Construction Material / Aggregates 58 3 3 0<br />

Container and Pallet 44 1 0 1<br />

Electronic 20 1 0 0<br />

Food Waste 25 0 0 0<br />

Glass 35 0 0 2<br />

Green Waste 10 0 0 1<br />

Metal and Metal Sludge 60 2 0 0<br />

Miscellaneous 71 0 1 2<br />

Oil and Wax 21 0 0 0<br />

Other Chemicals 22 0 0 0<br />

Packaging Materials 83 3 2 3<br />

Paint and Coating 20 1 0 0<br />

Paper and Cardboard 145 0 4 0<br />

Plastic and Rubber 127 2 1 3<br />

Solvent 12 0 0 0<br />

Textile and Leather 23 1 0 0<br />

Wood 65 1 0 1<br />

Total 860 16 17 14<br />

One observation of the national listings on Waste <strong>Exchange</strong> UK is that the vast majority are in<br />

Gloucestershire (518 out of 907), which seems best explained by the fact that the site is advertised<br />

through the Gloucestershire County Council website, along with a large selection of other exchange<br />

portals and providers. 11 The website originates and is still based in Stroud. There would seem to have<br />

been little national take-up so far but its presence on the County Council’s website suggests good<br />

local recognition can increase use. It is not known if other local authorities promote sites such as<br />

Waste <strong>Exchange</strong> UK.<br />

11 http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5250<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 39

7.0 Consumer Survey Outputs<br />

This section describes the outputs from the consumer survey. This part of the research was<br />

conducted to provide supplementary evidence to better explain consumer behaviour relating to online<br />

exchange. In particular, it was designed to learn where items may be taken for disposal, or how they<br />

may be exchanged if they are not being exchanged online. Questions were also asked to try and<br />

understand the levels of web usage and use of the websites in focus, as well as other websites not<br />

included in the monitoring work.<br />

The sample profile of respondents in each ACORN category is shown in Table 7.1.<br />

Table 7.1 Respondents split by ACORN<br />

ACORN<br />

Category<br />

Number of<br />

respondents<br />

Percentage<br />

of<br />

respondents<br />

Base 1,092 100%<br />

Percentage<br />

split of UK<br />

ACORN 1 287 26% 24%<br />

ACORN 2 180 16% 13%<br />

ACORN 3 295 27% 28%<br />

ACORN 4 132 12% 13%<br />

ACORN 5 198 18% 22%<br />

Responses were grouped according to whether or not they could access the internet, and whether<br />

they were users of online exchange websites.<br />

Table 7.2 shows the breakdown of responses for all respondents by internet use and use of exchange<br />

websites. The analysis of the survey in the following sections has split the respondents into two<br />

groups: those who use online exchange websites (583 respondents) and those who do not (509<br />

respondents).<br />

Table 7.2 Use of online exchange sites and access to an internet connection<br />

Do you have an internet<br />

connection?<br />

Have you ever used an online exchange website?<br />

Yes No Base %<br />

Yes 582 53% 188 17% 770 71<br />

No 1 0% 321 29% 322 29<br />

Base 583 53% 509 47% 1,092 100<br />

It can be seen that the majority of respondents do have an internet connection and have used an<br />

online exchange website (53%).<br />

The survey obtained responses from 321 householders (29%) who do not have access to the internet<br />

and do not use online exchange websites. This figure correlates well with national data from the<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 40

Office of National Statistics (ONS), which states that there were 19.2 million households with an<br />

internet connection in 2010, representing 73% of households. Whilst we acknowledge there might<br />

have been bias as a result of a lower response rate from those who feel that the survey does not<br />

apply to them, the statistic from the ONS would indicate that this has not been the case.<br />

Table 7.3 shows how many people in each ACORN category stated that they use online exchange<br />

websites.<br />

Table 7.3 Use of online exchange sites<br />

ACORN category<br />

All 1 2 3 4 5<br />

Base 1,092 287 180 295 132 198<br />

Yes 53% 55% 66% 54% 51% 41%<br />

No 47% 45% 34% 46% 49% 59%<br />

Significance<br />

(result is<br />

significantly<br />

different from<br />

other ACORN<br />

results)<br />

n/a<br />

ACORN 2<br />

ACORN 5<br />

ACORN 1<br />

ACORN 3<br />

ACORN 4<br />

ACORN 5<br />

ACORN 2<br />

ACORN 5<br />

ACORN 2<br />

ACORN 1<br />

ACORN 2<br />

ACORN 3<br />

Less affluent households in ACORN group 5 are statistically least likely to have used exchange<br />

websites – only 41% in this group have used an exchange website. ACORN group 2 shows the<br />

highest level of usage at 66%, significantly more than other groups. ACORN group 2 households are<br />

generally younger professionals and students, which explains the high level of internet access.<br />

The significance row in Table 7.3 shows which results are significantly different from others based on<br />

a statistical T-test. The number shown refers to the ACORN category for which the sample result is<br />

significantly different. However, for many of the results shown in the following sections, there are no<br />

significant differences between ACORN groups (at a 95% confidence level), which is due to the<br />

smaller sample sizes once responses to individual questions are broken down by group.<br />

7.1 Users of online exchange websites<br />

This section shows the results of the group of 583 respondents who said that they have used<br />

exchange websites. The questions relate to their awareness and use of the sites, as well as the ways<br />

in which they use them, reasons why and the types of item they would willingly exchange.<br />

7.1.1 Which online exchange websites are used?<br />

Respondents who do use online exchange sites were asked about their awareness and use of such<br />

sites. The consumer exchange sites monitored for this report were asked about directly: eBay,<br />

Freecycle, Freegle, Gumtree and Preloved. Respondents were also able to give an ‘other’ answer.<br />

Across all ACORN groups, respondents tend to be occasional rather than regular users for all sites,<br />

including eBay. People are clearly very aware of the eBay brand and it had the highest stated use<br />

(91% of respondents use it regularly or occasionally). Preloved and Freegle were the least used sites<br />

(12% and 6% using them, respectively), and had the lowest levels of awareness among respondents.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 41

Freecycle (37%) and Gumtree (29%) had reasonable levels of reported use by respondents, though it<br />

has been previously pointed out that those using exchange websites may also have been more likely<br />

to fill in the questionnaire as they would feel it relates to them. Only 69 respondents said they use<br />

other exchange websites, and only 40 people specified which website that was, of which Greencycle,<br />

Friday free adverts, and Amazon were the most mentioned.<br />

Clearly the higher awareness and use of eBay by respondents helps explain the results from the<br />

monitoring, so that the site most people are using is more likely to see a higher flow of second hand<br />

goods through exchanges arranged on it.<br />

7.1.2 How have the online exchange sites been used?<br />

The people who use each online exchange site were asked how they used the sites: was it for getting<br />

hold of items (accepting or buying), offering or selling items, requesting items or a combination? The<br />

results are presented in Figure 7.1.<br />

Figure 7.1 How online exchange sites are used<br />

80%<br />

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

accepting<br />

offering<br />

requesting<br />

accepting<br />

offering<br />

requesting<br />

accepting<br />

There is a pattern here which seems to show that people are more willing to receive something<br />

second hand if they have to pay for it. Free items (e.g. on Freecycle and Freegle) seem to be less<br />

tempting and those sites are used more by people wanting to give things away. For eBay and<br />

Preloved (where items are sold) there are more people accepting items than offering them. For<br />

Freecycle and Freegle (free items websites) there are more people offering items than accepting<br />

them. For Gumtree, which has a mix of free items and items for sale, there are more equal numbers<br />

of people offering and accepting.<br />

offering<br />

requesting<br />

accepting<br />

offering<br />

Requesting items<br />

Offering and some accepting<br />

Offering only<br />

Accepting with some offering<br />

Accepting only<br />

eBay Freecycle Freegle Gumtree Preloved<br />

requesting<br />

accepting<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 42<br />

offering<br />


eBay is used by 37% of users to accept items only, whereas just 8% of users only offer items. Ten<br />

percent of respondents said that they use the website to request items, even though this is not a<br />

feature of eBay. This compares with 30% of users requesting items through Freegle, where this is<br />

possible. This indicates that there may be an interpretation issue regarding the question.<br />

The users of Freecycle mainly offer items (73% of respondents) rather than accept items (29% in<br />

total). Of the 58 users of Freegle, 74% use it solely or mainly to offer items, and 36% to solely or<br />

mainly accept items. Users of Gumtree have 42% accepting items and 47% offering. On Preloved, of<br />

the 38 users, 24% accept items only and 13% offer items only.<br />

7.1.3 Reasons for using online exchange sites<br />

Respondents were asked to note the reasons why they do or do not use each of the online exchange<br />

sites. The complexity of the structure of the question has made it difficult to analyse, and the results<br />

were ultimately inconclusive.<br />

7.1.4 What items have been exchanged or would be considered for exchange?<br />

This question focused on what items have been exchanged or accepted online and what items would<br />

be considered when exchanging online (Figure 7.2). The same list of items was used as for the<br />

monitoring, described in Section 3.3.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 43

Figure 7.2 Items exchanged online by users of online exchanges<br />

Number of Responses<br />

300<br />

250<br />

200<br />

150<br />

100<br />

50<br />

0<br />

Items<br />

Offered<br />

Accepted<br />

Would<br />

consider<br />

The items reported as most likely to have been offered and received were small electrical items,<br />

computer peripherals, and ‘other items’, which covered a wide variety of items (the most reported<br />

being toys, furniture, DVDs/CDs, bikes and books). Televisions and mobile phones had also been<br />

offered by more respondents than other items. Least likely to be offered or received were leather<br />

jackets, dining tables, desks and office chairs. Overall there were more offered items than received<br />

items, as one would expect since not all offered items will be accepted. Some types of item were<br />

more likely to have been received than offered (other IT, cotton shirts, jumpers and office chairs),<br />

which provides some evidence of the level of demand for certain items. This may also be indicative of<br />

which items are most searched for by site users.<br />

Respondents were also asked if they would consider exchanging each type of item online. Aside from<br />

‘other items’ (as respondents were less likely to think of ‘other items’ to add to the list), it was more<br />

likely that respondents would consider exchanging an item that they had previously exchanged. Here<br />

the gap between what they have already exchanged and what they would consider might be taken to<br />

represent the ‘potential’ for that type of item, at least in terms of crudely what respondents would be<br />

willing to do (and without attempting to quantify the likelihood of such an exchange actually taking<br />

place). In these terms, Figure 7.2 suggests that the greatest ‘potential’ lies with online exchange of<br />

furniture. Respondents also appear willing to exchange leather jackets and large electrical items more<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 44

than they already do. There is less untapped potential with small electrical items and ‘other IT’, where<br />

exchange of items is already taking place quite successfully. Further investigation of the level of<br />

displacement (items diverted from the waste stream through exchange) is presented in Section 7.4.<br />

7.1.5 Offline alternatives to dispose (or recycle/reuse) items<br />

Respondents were asked what they would do with items that they would not exchange online. For<br />

each item more than one route of disposal could be selected; hence it is not possible to tell which<br />

route of disposal they would have prioritised. This also means that it has not been possible to<br />

determine a displacement rate from other reuse options. There are various other reasons why a<br />

survey such as this is not able to accurately determine displacement. Firstly, options such as bulky<br />

waste collections and use of household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) do not readily allow analysis<br />

that determines whether items disposed in this way would then have gone on to be reused. Some<br />

bulky collections do not facilitate reuse and many HWRCs do not make reuse possible except in rare<br />

circumstances. This is particularly likely to be the case where they only have outside storage space, in<br />

which case items that cannot be kept outside are likely to be weather-damaged before they can be<br />

sold for reuse. Further, the analysis of this kind of survey relies on claimed responses. It seems likely<br />

that respondents would want to appear to be likely to ‘do the right thing’, in which case responses<br />

such as donating to charity or to friends and family may be given more frequently than would tend to<br />

be the case in reality.<br />

We can reasonably presume that various factors would influence the chosen method of disposal. For<br />

example, when moving house there is rarely enough time to arrange for exchange in the way that<br />

one might normally prefer; and therefore easier disposal options may be taken at such times. Figure<br />

7.3 shows the proportionate breakdown of total responses for intended disposal of all items, if the<br />

items were not exchanged online.<br />

Figure 7.3 Offline alternatives to dispose of (or recycle/reuse) items, proportion of responses from online<br />

exchange users<br />

Sold offline<br />

6%<br />

Car boot sales<br />

6%<br />

Second hand shops<br />

11%<br />

Donated to friends /<br />

family<br />

22%<br />

Keep them<br />

4%<br />

Refuse collection<br />

3%<br />

Local tip or recycling<br />

centre<br />

17%<br />

Charitable collection<br />

or outlet<br />

25%<br />

Collection of large<br />

items by council<br />

6%<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 45

Generally respondents would consider giving items to charitable collections/outlets (25%) or giving to<br />

friends and family (22%). This was followed by taking to the local household waste recycling centre<br />

(HWRC) (17%) and taking to a second hand shop (11%). The items taken to the HWRC may be<br />

disposed of, recycled or taken by an onsite reuse centre, so it does not necessarily mean the item<br />

would be sent to landfill if taken to an HWRC.<br />

Only 3% of the responses related to disposal of items through the refuse collection, though it is<br />

reasonable to suppose that the survey results have understated kerbside refuse as a potential<br />

disposal route, with some respondents perhaps feeling reluctant to state that they would dispose of<br />

items in a wasteful manner. We can expect that intended offline routes of disposal may vary by<br />

ACORN category (as discussed in Section 7.4), since other research has shown that the<br />

disposal/recycling behaviour of different ACORN categories varies in relation to kerbside disposal and<br />

recycling. 12 The results do seem to indicate, in any case, that the total additional reuse that can be<br />

attributed to the use of online sites is markedly lower than the total quantities of reuse that are<br />

actually found to be occurring through the monitoring that was carried out and has already been<br />

presented in this report. Additional reuse would appear likely to occur in only around 10–15% of<br />

cases (including some of the responses giving bulky collection and use of HWRCs as likely alternatives<br />

as well as kerbside refuse collection). This assumes that the proportion of responses involving<br />

disposal to residual waste suggested in Figure 7.3 does offer a reasonable proportion of online<br />

exchanges that would otherwise have been disposed of. As already explained, the true displacement<br />

rate would involve a more detailed investigation of alternative options and how likely it is that each<br />

would be used in any one instance.<br />

This survey question was not constrained to investigating a respondent’s actual history of offline<br />

disposal (or recycling/reuse) of various items, and therefore the responses often relate to the<br />

aspirations of the respondents, rather than indicating their actual behaviour.<br />

There could be an impact on the results arising from a respondent’s understanding of the terminology<br />

used in the question. From a respondent’s point of view there could well be some degree of overlap<br />

of charitable collections and second hand shops, which has not been brought out through the survey.<br />

The distinction between the two alternatives could be subjective, depending on what individual<br />

respondents consider to be charitable collection/outlets or second hand shops. It would seem sensible<br />

to assume that in some less affluent areas, all second hand shops are also charitable outlets.<br />

12 Resource Futures on behalf of WRAP, Waste Compositional Analysis by ACORN Category, 2011 (unpublished at the time of<br />

writing).<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 46

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

Figure 7.4 Offline alternatives for disposal (or recycling/reuse) of furniture for online exchange users<br />

Sofa Dining table Desk Office chair<br />

Base: Sofa 708, dining table 673, desk 649, office chair 617<br />

Keep item<br />

Refuse collection<br />

Collection of large items by council<br />

Local tip or recycling centre<br />

Charitable collection or outlet<br />

Second hand shops<br />

Car boot sales<br />

Sold offline<br />

Donated to friends / family<br />

It can be seen that the most popular disposal routes for all furniture are donating to charity and<br />

donating to friends and family. For sofas, dining tables and desks over 50% of people who answered<br />

this question would donate to charity and family/friends. Office chairs would also be donated to<br />

charity or friends and family, although taking them to the HWRC would also be an option for 38% of<br />

respondents.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 47

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

Figure 7.5 Offline alternatives for disposal (or recycling/reuse) of electrical items<br />

Television Mobile<br />

phone<br />

Computer Other IT Other<br />

electrical<br />

Washing<br />

machine<br />

Keep item<br />

Refuse collection<br />

Collection of large items by council<br />

Local tip or recycling centre<br />

Charitable collection or outlet<br />

Second hand shops<br />

Car boot sales<br />

Sold offline<br />

Donated to friends / family<br />

Base: TV 681, mobile 618, computer 666, other IT 583, other electrical 661, washing machine 642<br />

There was a general pattern to the preferred disposal options for the electrical items, in that HWRCs<br />

and donating to family/friends were the most popular options. The third most stated option for<br />

washing machines was using the council bulky waste collection, whereas for all other electrical items<br />

the third option was to use a charitable outlet.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 48

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

Figure 7.6 Offline alternatives for disposal (or recycling/reuse) of clothing<br />

Leather jacket Cotton shirt Jumper<br />

Base: leather jacket 645, cotton shirt 674, jumper 678<br />

The most stated disposal options for all three types of clothing items was donating to charitable<br />

collections or outlets, followed by second hand shops and donating to friends and family.<br />

7.2 Non-users of online exchange websites<br />

Out of the 1,092 respondents, 509 said they did not use online exchange websites (or were assumed<br />

not to as they did not answer the question relating to use and awareness of the different websites; or<br />

stated that they did not have access to the internet).<br />

7.2.1 Awareness of online exchange sites<br />

Keep item<br />

Refuse collection<br />

Collection of large items by council<br />

Local tip or recycling centre<br />

Charitable collection or outlet<br />

Second hand shops<br />

Car boot sales<br />

Sold offline<br />

Donated to friends / family<br />

The respondents who do not use the websites were asked if they were aware of the sites or not; the<br />

results are shown in Figure 7.7.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 49

Number of Respondents<br />

Figure 7.7 Awareness of online exchange websites for non-users of online exchanges<br />

140<br />

120<br />

100<br />

80<br />

60<br />

40<br />

20<br />

0<br />

eBay Freecycle Freegle Gumtree Preloved<br />

Websites<br />

Generally, those who answered this question were more likely to be unaware of a website than to<br />

know of it but not have used it. The exception to this was eBay, of which many more people were<br />

aware than unaware.<br />

7.2.2 Reason for not using online websites<br />

Respondents were asked to rate each website for ease of use, personal security, environmental<br />

benevolence, bargain hunting and item quality.<br />

There was a low response rate to this question and therefore it is difficult to draw solid conclusions<br />

from the results. However, amongst the responses that were received, the quality of an item was<br />

reported to be the main reason for not using online exchange websites, followed by personal security<br />

and not understanding how they worked.<br />

7.2.3 Willingness to use online exchange sites for non-users<br />

Aware of (but have not used)<br />

Not aware of<br />

All non-users were asked whether they would consider exchanging certain items online. The response<br />

rate to this question was also low, as the data in Table 7.4 show.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 50

Table 7.4 Responses to question asking whether non-users would consider using online exchange sites<br />

Items Base Response<br />

Sofa 34 32<br />

Dining table 42 39<br />

Desk 40 38<br />

Office chair 30 27<br />

Television 27 26<br />

Small electrical items 26 24<br />

Large electrical items 30 28<br />

Leather jacket 19 18<br />

Cotton shirt 12 10<br />

Jumper 11 10<br />

Mobile phone 21 20<br />

Computer 23 22<br />

Other IT 32 30<br />

Of the respondents who do not use online exchange sites, less than 10% answered this question. It is<br />

not possible to determine whether those not answering the question would not consider exchanging<br />

items. However, of those who did respond, the results show that the least exchangeable items were<br />

cotton shirts and office chairs, and the most exchangeable items were televisions and computers,<br />

although the differences between least and most exchangeable are small.<br />

7.2.4 Offline alternatives to exchange or dispose (or recycling/reuse) items for non-users of<br />

online exchanges<br />

The non-users of online exchange websites were asked what they do with items they would like to<br />

exchange or dispose of; the proportions of responses for each disposal (or recycling/reuse) option are<br />

shown in Figure 7.8.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 51

Figure 7.8 Offline disposal (or recycling/reuse) routes for non-users of online exchanges, proportion of<br />

responses<br />

Second hand shops<br />

9%<br />

Sold offline<br />

3% Donated to friends /<br />

Car boot sales<br />

2%<br />

family<br />

15%<br />

Keep them<br />

3% Refuse collection<br />

5%<br />

Local tip or recycling<br />

centre<br />

20%<br />

Charitable collection<br />

or outlet<br />

31%<br />

Collection of large<br />

items by council<br />

12%<br />

This question was answered by 410 respondents. It can be seen that 31% of respondents use<br />

charitable collections or outlets to dispose of their unwanted items. Local tips or recycling centres, i.e.<br />

HWRCs (20%) and donating to family and friends (15%) were the other popular choices.<br />

Figures 7.9, 7.10 and 7.11 show the offline disposal (or recycling/reuse) options for non-users of<br />

online exchanges for each category of items (furniture, electrical and clothing).<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 52

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

Figure 7.9 Disposal (or recycling/reuse) routes for furniture, non-users of online exchanges<br />

Sofa Dining table Desk Office chair<br />

Base: Sofa 297, dining table 275, desk 250, office chair 226<br />

Keep item<br />

Refuse collection<br />

Collection of large items by council<br />

Local tip or recycling centre<br />

Charitable collection or outlet<br />

Second hand shops<br />

Car boot sales<br />

Sold offline<br />

Donated to friends / family<br />

In the furniture category, the option stated by the most respondents was donation to charity. Other<br />

commonly stated options were the council bulky waste collection and donation to family/friends.<br />

Office chairs differed from the other furniture types in having HWRCs as the second most frequently<br />

stated option.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 53

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

Figure 7.10 Disposal (or recycling/reuse) routes for electrical items, non-users of online exchanges<br />

TV Mobile<br />

phone<br />

Computer Other IT Other<br />

electrical<br />

Washing<br />

machine<br />

Keep item<br />

Refuse collection<br />

Collection of large items by council<br />

Local tip or recycling centre<br />

Charitable collection or outlet<br />

Second hand shops<br />

Car boot sales<br />

Sold offline<br />

Donated to friends / family<br />

Base: TV 284, mobile 230, computer 191, other IT 164, other electrical 287, washing machine 275<br />

For televisions, computers, ‘other IT’ and ‘other’ electrical items, the local tip or recycling centre, i.e.<br />

the local HWRC, was the most common response. Mobile phones differed in that the most frequent<br />

response was donation to charity. More people said they would put a washing machine out for the<br />

council to collect than any other route of disposal (or recycling/reuse).<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 54

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

Figure 7.11 Disposal (or recycling/reuse) routes for clothing items, non-users of online exchanges<br />

0%<br />

Leather jacket Cotton shirt Jumper<br />

Base: Leather jacket 262, cotton shirt 283, jumper 295<br />

The most frequently stated option for clothing is donation to charity, followed by taking to a second<br />

hand shop. Over 10% of people would also possibly donate their clothing to friends or family.<br />

Clothing seems more likely than other items (except for some electrical items) to be discarded for<br />

refuse by non-users of online exchange. For both furniture and large electrical goods high numbers of<br />

non-users of online exchange sites would use bulky waste collections, which involve a fairly high risk<br />

of those items not being reused (although the electrical items will be recycled). Further analysis of<br />

offline disposal routes can be found in Section 7.4.<br />

7.3 Comparison of users and non-users<br />

Keep item<br />

Refuse collection<br />

Collection of large items by<br />

council<br />

Local tip or recycling centre<br />

Charitable collection or outlet<br />

Second hand shops<br />

Car boot sales<br />

Sold offline<br />

There were 583 users of online exchange websites and 509 non-users who participated in the survey,<br />

although not all of them answered the questions relating to alternative disposal routes. All<br />

respondents were asked about offline alternatives used to exchange or dispose of items. Figure 7.12<br />

and Table 7.5 give a comparison of users and non-users of online exchange websites.<br />

Table 7.5 shows the different offline reuse and dispose routes for all items for both users and nonusers<br />

of online exchange. This shows that overall reuse by users of online exchange sites is slightly<br />

higher, although some routes are well used by both (such as charitable collections). The potential<br />

displacement from other types of reuse by offline respondents is lower (i.e. they could do more<br />

additional reuse), though a number of options remain open to increase the amount of reuse they do,<br />

of which online exchange websites is only one. What they switch to when they take up reuse is likely<br />

to be a matter of convenience as much as anything. The data would suggest that there are<br />

opportunities to increase reuse of items collected through the bulky waste system or HWRCs.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 55

100%<br />

90%<br />

80%<br />

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

Table 7.5 Comparison of offline reuse and disposal routes for users and non-users of online exchange websites<br />

Offline alternative<br />

Users of online<br />

exchange<br />

Non-users of<br />

online exchange<br />

Keep them 4% 3%<br />

Refuse collection 3% 5%<br />

Collection of large items by council 6% 12%<br />

Local tip or recycling centre 17% 20%<br />

Charitable collection or outlet 25% 31%<br />

Second hand shops 11% 9%<br />

Car boot sales 6% 2%<br />

Sold offline 6% 3%<br />

Donated to friends / family 22% 15%<br />

Figure 7.12 Offline disposal routes for items, comparison of users and non-users of online exchanges<br />

0%<br />

Do use online sites Do not use online sites<br />

Donated to friends / family<br />

Sold offline<br />

Car boot sales<br />

Second hand shops<br />

Charitable collection or outlet<br />

HWRC<br />

Collection of large items by council<br />

Refuse collection<br />

Keep item<br />

For respondents who use exchange websites but are disposing of an item offline it was found that the<br />

most commonly stated routes were to donate to charities, then to give items to friends and family,<br />

followed by taking items to the HWRC. For those respondents who do not use exchange websites, it<br />

can be seen that they would also dispose of their items via the same three main routes, albeit in a<br />

different order of preference: via a charity, taking them to the HWRC and then donating to family or<br />

friends.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 56

Differences can be seen in the higher proportion of responses relating to use of the refuse collection<br />

and bulky-waste collection for non-users of exchange websites.<br />

Interestingly, it seems that people who use online sites may also take more items to car boot sales,<br />

sell offline and put less in the refuse or bulky waste collection than those who do not use the online<br />

sites. This may suggest that overall the users of sites are more likely to put in the effort to get some<br />

money for their unwanted items. This is consistent with the finding that non-users are more likely to<br />

use charitable collections or to take items to charity shops.<br />

7.4 Additional analysis of alternative disposal routes<br />

The responses received have been further analysed to investigate differences in the behaviour of<br />

respondents when it comes to alternative disposal routes. The analysis has been conducted for<br />

ACORN categories and also per priority item. In particular, the alternative disposal options have been<br />

considered to determine whether there is likely to be any displacement of waste from the municipal<br />

waste stream to reuse outlets.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 57

Figure 7.13 and Figure 7.14 show this variation in disposal route by ACORN group in more detail for<br />

two of the priority items: cotton shirts and sofas. This analysis is for all respondents, regardless of<br />

whether they currently use online exchanges or not.<br />

In viewing these results it is important to bear in mind that the responses relate to the aspirations of<br />

the respondents and do not necessarily relate to their behaviour. For example (as discussed below),<br />

ACORN 2 appears to have the highest aspirations in terms of using the more benevolent alternative<br />

routes to online exchange; but this may be partially a reflection of the fact that there is higher<br />

internet usage for ACORN 2 (with a high proportion of young professionals and students in this<br />

category), and consequently a higher rate of participation in online activities, including online<br />

exchanges. This may be influencing the stated responses for offline disposal alternatives. The<br />

example of ACORN 2 aspirations is interesting because it is at odds with other research, which would<br />

suggest that for textiles, ACORN 1 is considerably more active in terms of actually using benevolent<br />

disposal routes (charity shops, donations) than ACORN 2. 13<br />

Although all groups are most likely to donate a cotton shirt to a charity, there are differences<br />

between the habits of the different ACORN categories. For example, it can be seen that ACORN 2 is<br />

the group that is most likely to aspire to take a cotton shirt to a charitable collection or outlet, second<br />

hand shop, sell the item offline, take it to a car boot sale, or donate it to friends and family (although<br />

the comments above regarding the possible difference between behaviour and intention need to be<br />

borne in mind here). ACORN 5, on the other hand, is the most likely to put the item in the refuse<br />

collection and more likely to take it to the local tip or recycling centre (i.e. HWRC). It is also worth<br />

noting there are some odd responses, for example the use of a council bulky waste collection for<br />

cotton shirts.<br />

13 Resource Futures on behalf of WRAP, Waste Compositional Analysis by ACORN Category, 2011 (unpublished at the time of<br />

writing).<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 58

Percentage of respondents<br />

Figure 7.13 Offline disposal routes for cotton shirts by ACORN group<br />

80%<br />

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

Offline Disposal Route<br />

Acorn 1<br />

Acorn 2<br />

Acorn 3<br />

Acorn 4<br />

Acorn 5<br />

For sofas, on the other hand, ACORN group 2 is again the most likely out of all the ACORN groups to<br />

aspire to donate the item to charity, take it to a second hand shop, sell it through a car boot sale or<br />

other offline means; but it is also the group that is most likely to take it to the tip or recycling centre<br />

(i.e. HWRC) or request a collection by the council. This may be a reflection of the fact that<br />

respondents from ACORN group 2 were more likely to consider a range of options for passing on<br />

sofas rather than narrowing their responses to only one or two. ACORN group 1 this time is also likely<br />

to donate the item to friends or family, or to a charity. Across the responses for ACORN group 5, the<br />

most popular disposal route is to have the item collected by the council. For all other ACORN groups,<br />

the most popular disposal route is through a charity collection or outlet.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 59

Percentage of respondents<br />

Figure 7.14 Alternative disposal routes for sofas according to ACORN group<br />

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

Offline Disposal Route<br />

Acorn 1<br />

Acorn 2<br />

Acorn 3<br />

Acorn 4<br />

Acorn 5<br />

Table 7.6 shows the two most popular alternative disposal routes for each of the priority items. This<br />

is shown in graphical form in Figure 7.15. The routes shown in the table are those that are most likely<br />

to be used by consumers if they choose not to exchange an item online. It can be seen that for<br />

furniture, both home and office, the most popular disposal route is through a charitable collection or<br />

outlet, followed by donation to friends or family. For all electrical items except mobile phones, the<br />

most popular disposal route is the local tip or recycling centre (i.e. HWRC). Again the second most<br />

popular route is donating the item to friends or family, except in the case of washing machines, for<br />

which arranging a council collection is the second most popular route. For all clothing – leather<br />

jackets, cotton shirts and jumpers – the most popular response was to dispose of the item through a<br />

charitable collection or outlet, followed by a second hand shop.<br />

The mobile phone category shows slightly different results from all the other electrical items, in that<br />

the most popular disposal route is to donate the phone to friends or family, very closely followed by<br />

disposing of it through a charitable collection or outlet.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 60

Table 7.6 The two most popular alternative disposal routes for each priority item<br />

Most popular option Second most popular option<br />

Sofa Charitable collection or outlet Donated to friends / family<br />

Dining table Charitable collection or outlet Donated to friends / family<br />

Desk Charitable collection or outlet Donated to friends / family<br />

Office chair Charitable collection or outlet Donated to friends / family<br />

TV Local tip or recycling centre Donated to friends / family<br />

Mobile phone Donated to friends / family Charitable collection or outlet<br />

Computer Local tip or recycling centre Donated to friends / family<br />

Other IT Local tip or recycling centre Donated to friends / family<br />

Other electrical Local tip or recycling centre Donated to friends / family<br />

Washing machine Local tip or recycling centre Collection of large items by council<br />

Leather jacket Charitable collection or outlet Second hand shops<br />

Cotton shirt Charitable collection or outlet Second hand shops<br />

Jumper Charitable collection or outlet Second hand shops<br />

Figure 7.15 shows the different disposal options and the relative popularity of each of the top five<br />

responses for all priority items. For the clothing categories, it can be seen that the significantly most<br />

popular disposal route is through a charity collection or outlet, with over 60% of respondents stating<br />

this route for each priority item. Similarly, this was easily the most popular route for the furniture<br />

categories. Whilst taking items to the tip or recycling centre (HWRC) was the most common response<br />

amongst the electrical items (excluding mobile phones), the graph shows that this was also a fairly<br />

common response for many of the furniture categories. For these larger items, there were also a<br />

reasonable number of respondents who said that they would arrange for a council collection for larger<br />

items – as is the case with washing machines.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 61

% respondents using disposal route<br />

Figure 7.15 Most popular alternative disposal routes for priority items<br />

70%<br />

60%<br />

50%<br />

40%<br />

30%<br />

20%<br />

10%<br />

0%<br />

Priority item<br />

8.0 Opportunities for Market Development<br />

Collection of<br />

large items by<br />

council<br />

Local tip or<br />

recycling centre<br />

Charitable<br />

collection or<br />

outlet<br />

Second hand<br />

shops<br />

The evidence gathered as part of this research suggests that internet-mediated reuse could be a<br />

cultural and societal response to a number of factors and to see it as a potentially expanding market<br />

is to assume that society can accept reuse as part of a purchased item’s typical life. However, this is a<br />

general reuse issue rather than one specific to online exchange. In terms of the sites included in this<br />

research, eBay will largely look after itself; with a net income of nearly US$2 billion in 2010 and a<br />

significant advertising budget, the company will continue to grow and attract new users every day.<br />

eBay are also the owners of Gumtree and with the recent decline in television advertising costs,<br />

Gumtree has become a regularly advertised website – more so than the parent company.<br />

� As the internet becomes more widely used by all sectors of society, the development of<br />

online exchanges may change to target different sectors and reach populations that are not<br />

currently included. For example, rather than competing with furniture reuse organisations,<br />

these outlets could be encouraged to list their items online. Therefore when their traditional<br />

client base has access to the internet, they will be able to identify and purchase items online<br />

rather than needing to visit the shop. In these instances the websites may need to be<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 62

developed to account for third parties purchasing the item (e.g. a housing association on<br />

behalf of its tenant).<br />

� A benefit of internet reuse over other outlets is that there may be greater opportunities to<br />

match items wanted and offered (free or otherwise). An easy-to-use website that provides<br />

accurate descriptions and pictures is likely to facilitate reuse and allow site users to have<br />

more confidence in the quality and usability of the item they are purchasing/ taking.<br />

� Inevitably, the use of online services will increase as more of the UK’s population become<br />

comfortable with using the internet. As internet use increases, it would be appropriate for<br />

local authorities to support online exchanges in the same way that they support offline<br />

methods. This support might be as simple as to link to the site from their own web pages.<br />

� For the purposes of this research, the free exchange sites were more difficult to monitor since<br />

items listed on them were not categorised by type but by listing status. For ease of<br />

monitoring, a more detailed and structured categorisation would make it quicker and simpler<br />

to search for and find different types of items being listed.<br />

� A further opportunity may be found in encouraging charitable organisations to use online<br />

exchange mechanisms; for example, having a shop on eBay or a group based on the<br />

Freegle/Freecycle model. Based on the evidence of this research, providing an online link to<br />

charity shops could encourage both reuse and charitable exchange and have a double<br />

benefit. This does already occur; for example, some furniture reuse organisations will sell<br />

items on their own website or through portals such as Amazon marketplace. In fact, on eBay<br />

sellers can choose to donate a percentage of the sale price to charity, or a charity can sell<br />

items itself. One example is Marie Curie Cancer care; its eBay page states that 100% of the<br />

sale price of any item sold will go to the charity. 14<br />

9.0 Observations and Conclusions<br />

There are two elements to this section. The first concentrates on some of the headline observations<br />

made during this research. They are not all data-based and a number of hypotheses are described<br />

which have arisen from the process of undertaking the research. The second section provides<br />

conclusions about the potential to measure the amount of online exchange to identify the amount of<br />

reuse using this mode of exchange.<br />

9.1 Observations<br />

This section firstly details a number of headline observations made during the monitoring phase of<br />

this research, with specific observations for each website about the amount of activity on each site<br />

and the amount of exchange that was observed.<br />

9.1.1 eBay<br />

Monitoring the number of certain items added to eBay over the course of one week provided a means<br />

of estimating the number of items added to eBay each year. Numbers are high; for example<br />

approximately 1,185,000 used mobile phones, 896,000 cotton shirts and 56,000 washing machines<br />

are listed on the site for sale each year.<br />

The proportion of these items which are actually sold on eBay varies by item. Average sales range<br />

from 82% of mobile phones and 79% of washing machines being sold, down to 31% of cotton shirts<br />

14 http://donations.ebay.co.uk/charity/charity.jsp?NP_ID=11871&searchString=mariecuriecancercareshop#buynp<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 63

and 34% of jumpers. The actual number of shirts and jumpers sold is still fairly high, however, as<br />

large numbers of these items are listed in the first place, and a high proportion of products that do<br />

not sell first time are then relisted. The results from the items monitored suggest that highly priced<br />

items sell better on eBay than cheaper ones.<br />

The average final bid also varies by item. Sofas are the ‘highest value’ item of those monitored,<br />

selling for an average price of £110. Mobile phones and washing machines also go for higher prices<br />

(as would be expected), with cotton shirts and jumpers both being much cheaper and selling for close<br />

to £5 on average.<br />

There is limited office furniture on eBay, although the items that are listed seem to sell fairly well.<br />

The numbers of larger items that are sold through eBay, such as furniture, washing machines and<br />

computers, are generally lower than smaller items which can be more easily posted to the buyer. The<br />

larger ‘bulky’ items mostly need to be collected in person, which will dramatically reduce the number<br />

of prospective buyers. This monitoring exercise has shown that mobile phones sold the best on eBay<br />

out of all items monitored. High numbers are listed on the site in the first instance, but a high<br />

proportion of those items are also sold; this could be because mobile phones are highly priced but<br />

also easy to post.<br />

9.1.2 Gumtree<br />

Mobile phones are popular items advertised on Gumtree, as are televisions. Results varied by region,<br />

with some areas being much more active than others. A relatively high number of sofas are also<br />

featured on Gumtree. This could be because items are advertised locally, and so prospective buyers<br />

who are searching the adverts are more likely to be in a position to collect the item, compared to<br />

national sites. Very few clothes are advertised on Gumtree, and office furniture did not feature highly.<br />

9.1.3 Preloved<br />

Preloved activity was found to be lower than on Gumtree, although the setup of the site is very<br />

similar, with items being advertised locally. Altogether, there were just 163 adverts for monitored<br />

items across all five areas. In some cases, searches returned just one or two items in certain<br />

categories, and in fact in Inverness there were only three adverts in total across all priority items.<br />

Mobile phones were once again the most popular items to exchange on Preloved, followed by sofas<br />

and dining tables. This could be because the local nature of the adverts benefits those selling large<br />

items that need to be collected in person by the buyer. Very few adverts were found for office<br />

furniture, and there were also low numbers of adverts for computers and washing machines.<br />

9.1.4 Freegle/Freecycle<br />

From the outset, it was clear that neither of these sites has invested in providing an efficient service<br />

for wide-scale use and as the services grow in popularity, some sort of preliminary classification<br />

similar to eBay would improve the usability of the sites and potentially improve the rate at which<br />

items are exchanges on these sites.<br />

Nonetheless a high proportion of users make accurate use of the system which facilitates effective (if<br />

time-consuming) searching for specific items. The availability of a daily digest of listings further<br />

simplifies searching; however, items can be taken very quickly, introducing an element of luck in<br />

obtaining specific types of items.<br />

Geography also plays a part in the effectiveness of Freegle and Freecycle. The group setup means<br />

that a user has to belong to many groups in order to search an area from which they can collect<br />

items. It can be assumed that all items must either be collected or delivered – using a postal service<br />

would then put a cost on an otherwise free item.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 64

9.1.5 Consumer survey<br />

The survey data was analysed based on those who do and do not use online exchange sites.<br />

However, there was a low response rate for non-users for the majority of questions which means that<br />

we cannot be confident in drawing conclusions from this data.<br />

For the respondents who do use online exchange websites, it can be seen that eBay and Gumtree are<br />

the most recognised and used. Overall there seem to be more items offered online than accepted,<br />

although this does vary depending on the item. ‘Other’ items, small electrical and ‘other IT’ items<br />

were the most offered and accepted items from respondents who use the websites. When not using<br />

online exchange websites, the respondents who do use them said that they would mostly donate<br />

unwanted items to a charity shop, followed by friends and family donations. For the respondents who<br />

do not use online exchange websites, only six people answered the question about how aware they<br />

are of the different websites; therefore there this data could not yield any reliable results.<br />

When asked how they do dispose of unwanted items, the majority of people who do not use online<br />

exchange websites said that they would donate to charity, make use of a local authority collection or<br />

take it to the household waste recycling centre (HWRC). This result clearly suggests that the majority<br />

of respondents are willing to take environmentally positive actions to manage useable but unwanted<br />

items. However in reality a proportion of these items could be unsuitable for reuse and goodwill, i.e.<br />

willingness to reuse, could well be superseded by convenience.<br />

As shown in Section 7.4, there is a clear trend with offline alternatives for item exchange. Clothing<br />

appears to be sent mainly to charitable outlets (which may include second hand shops depending on<br />

the respondent’s perception of the question) whereas electronic goods (WEEE) are more likely to go<br />

to HWRCs. The offline destination of furniture might be more varied, probably due to the sheer bulk<br />

of some of the items. Many shops, particularly the charitable outlets, are reluctant to accept WEEE<br />

due to the stricter regulation on selling electronic goods. These items require testing by qualified<br />

persons (PAT testing) whereas items such as clothing and furniture are much easier to prepare for<br />

resale or distribution.<br />

The question of suitability for reuse is not likely to be answered by the ‘producer/vendor’, but<br />

whoever receives the item. Therefore it is likely that a proportion of items that are offered for reuse<br />

will not be suitable for reuse and will merely take a longer route to disposal, with no benefit being<br />

derived from the initial goodwill of the offer.<br />

9.2 Conclusions<br />

This study set out to identify whether it is possible to measure the amount of goods being exchanged<br />

online and to develop an understanding of the potential for reuse, and therefore the benefits of online<br />

exchange. From the monitoring that has taken place, it is clear that it is possible to measure the<br />

quantities of items that are listed for exchange. However, for most sites it has not been possible to<br />

know for certain whether an exchange has actually taken place or not.<br />

� The research has quantified awareness and use of online exchange both in terms of quantity<br />

and type of items advertised.<br />

� For eBay, it can be clear when an item is sold and it becomes second hand therefore<br />

preventing the item from becoming waste. We can quantify the number of items and<br />

therefore it should be possible to calculate the tonnage of waste prevented as a result. This is<br />

a quantifiable benefit of this online exchange portal.<br />

� It is not clear how long the item continues to be used before becoming waste. The length of<br />

time a second hand item needs to be used in order to qualify as a reused item is a question<br />

beyond the scope of this report.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 65

� It is more difficult to measure exchange that has taken place through websites such as<br />

Freegle. This is because it is currently very difficult to determine with certainty whether an<br />

item has actually been taken or not. Anecdotal evidence from a handful of users would<br />

suggest that most, if not all, items are exchanged; but even if this is true, once again it is not<br />

possible to know how long the item is used before it becomes waste, or re-enters the reuse<br />

cycle.<br />

� With the online monitoring it has sometimes been difficult to obtain data, especially data to<br />

confirm the item has been sold or exchanged. Without this data it is difficult to measure the<br />

amount of goods being exchanged online and to develop an understanding of the benefits of<br />

online exchange. Success in answering the original aims of this study: to measure online<br />

exchange of second hand goods and provide information for an assessment of the benefits of<br />

reuse through this medium, has been greater for some of the websites than others.<br />

Including online exchange as a viable method of facilitating waste prevention could be an important<br />

element of accounting for waste prevention in the UK. To be able to determine how much reuse is<br />

occurring through online services, it would need to be possible to assess more accurately whether an<br />

exchange takes place, and further research or monitoring would be needed to check with accuracy<br />

whether the reuse that had occurred was additional or was displacing reuse that would have occurred<br />

elsewhere (e.g. via a charity shop or reuse organisation). It would be much more straightforward to<br />

achieve this if the sites themselves were set up in a way that facilitated effective monitoring of<br />

specified types of second hand items, and it is hoped that the recommendations for Freegle and<br />

Freecycle may be of some use in designing their sites to enable easy identification and categorisation<br />

of the main types of items that appear on them.<br />

The issues of item quality and the potential for exchanged items to be subsequently reused or resold,<br />

in relation to items changing hands through online exchanges, have not been comprehensively<br />

addressed in this research. In particular, for the free exchange sites Freecycle and Freegle, items<br />

could be exchanged for benevolent reasons and then sold on for financial gain. Collectibles and<br />

furniture are both subject to this sort of activity. The issue of quality could be addressed through<br />

contacting recipients of items through the portals studied and this could potentially shed light on how<br />

long items are kept out of the disposal stream.<br />

The overall volume of items exchanged could be increased with relatively little investment and it is<br />

recommended this should be researched further in collaboration with specific website operators.<br />

Introducing item categories, even at a very broad level (for instance, furniture, electronics, clothing)<br />

could help people find the items that they are looking for. eBay uses these categories to simplify<br />

search for items, although it is also used to aid the casual browser. This research aimed to find out if<br />

it is possible to measure the amount of goods being exchanged online and to develop an<br />

understanding of the benefits of online exchange. This report shows that the volumes of items can be<br />

quantified to some extent, and that it may be possible to extend the data to estimate weights of<br />

materials changing hands in this way. The monitoring required in order to determine the flow of items<br />

must be streamlined if it is to be repeated on a larger scale; and the nuances and variations of how<br />

specific portals are used must be more clearly understood if annual estimates are to be made more<br />

reliable.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 66

Appendix 1: Weight estimates of items<br />

Estimated weights of items exchanged are presented here. These estimates have been kept separate<br />

from the main body of the report, as there is significantly less confidence in the weight estimates in<br />

comparison to estimated numbers of items sold and exchanged, for the reasons described below.<br />

Elsewhere in the report the numbers of items sold and exchanged have been calculated. However it is<br />

problematic to provide corresponding estimates for tonnes of items sold or exchanged with any<br />

confidence, essentially considering the often wide range of weights per item for different<br />

subcategories of the same category. For example the FRN average weight list includes 13 different<br />

entries for televisions, which includes both CRT and flat screen varieties. The different sizes of<br />

televisions, coupled with the different types of television, means that the weight can vary between<br />

4.4 kg and 31.0 kg. The average weight across the range of average weights for the 13 different<br />

types of televisions is 14.4 kg per item. However, it is problematic to apply this figure as an average<br />

weight for televisions because the distribution of weights (i.e. the relative numbers of items of lower<br />

and higher weights) is not known, due to lack of knowledge about subcategories of items (in this<br />

example relating to different types of televisions).<br />

Table A1.1 lists the average weights that have been used for the priority items. We have applied the<br />

‘average’ weight to the number of units exchanged for each of the priority items, and the results of<br />

this analysis are presented below. It should be borne in mind that the ‘average’ weights for any of<br />

these items could be misleading, depending on whether an item subcategory has a lower or higher<br />

weight than the average used in the calculation. Therefore this method of applying average weights<br />

may result in a significant under- or over-estimate of the actual weights involved in online exchange;<br />

and it is not possible to say which without more comprehensive analysis of the listings. Indeed, as<br />

designs and consumer preference changes, this may be reflected in the weight of the items<br />

exchanged (for example, items such as mobile phones and televisions are lighter now than in the<br />

past), and so it will be important for future research to apply average weights of items at a<br />

subcategory level, and for these average weights to be reasonably up to date, if reliable weight<br />

estimates are to be produced.<br />

This method of applying average weights per item in order to arrive at a total estimated tonnage can<br />

obscure the true success of exchange sites. Measures of success that are more valid might arguably<br />

be related to the number of items exchanged, awareness of online exchange communities and levels<br />

of usage of their sites.<br />

Table A1.1 Average weight of priority items<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 67

Category<br />

Average<br />

Weight (kg)<br />

Sofa 39.50<br />

Dining table 25.00<br />

Office desk 24.33<br />

Office chair 12.00<br />

TV 14.35<br />

Mobile phone 0.50<br />

Computers 6.50<br />

Other IT 14.33<br />

Washing machine 58.67<br />

Leather jacket 1.50<br />

Cotton shirt 0.20<br />

Jumper 0.50<br />

Ebay<br />

Table A1.2 and Figure A1.1 show that sofas, televisions, dining tables and washing machines<br />

contribute more to the tonnage of material exchanged via eBay than other items, despite the fact<br />

that the number of listings and the exchange rate (i.e. the percentage of items that are actually sold<br />

or exchanged) are lower. It is estimated that a total of 4,848,064 priority items are listed on eBay<br />

every year, and the weight of these items sold equates to approximately 15,436 tonnes.<br />

Table A1.2 Estimated listings, exchange rate and tonnage exchanged per annum on eBay<br />

Category<br />

Estimated<br />

annual<br />

listings<br />

Estimated<br />

exchange<br />

rate<br />

Total<br />

tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

Sofa 222,463 47% 4,130<br />

Dining table 210,418 49% 2,578<br />

Office desk 13,663 49% 163<br />

Office chair 52,449 42% 264<br />

TV 256,724 67% 2,469<br />

Mobile phone 1,011,764 82% 415<br />

Computers 52,787 59% 202<br />

Other IT 286,728 39% 1,603<br />

Washing machine 66,658 79% 3,089<br />

Leather jacket 332,852 49% 245<br />

Cotton shirt 1,107,483 31% 69<br />

Jumper 1,234,077 34% 210<br />

Total for priority items 4,848,064 15,436<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 68

Figure A1.1 Total estimated tonnage exchanged per annum on Ebay<br />

Leather jacket,<br />

245<br />

Computers, 202<br />

Mobile phone,<br />

415<br />

Washing<br />

machine, 3,089<br />

Other IT, 1,603<br />

Cotton shirt, 69<br />

TV, 2,469<br />

Jumper, 210<br />

Sofa, 4,130<br />

Dining table,<br />

2,578<br />

Office Desk, 163<br />

Office chair, 264<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 69

Preloved<br />

The average number of items listed per week per Preloved group is low, but if the findings of this<br />

study are factored up to account for the fact that there are 70 groups throughout the country, the<br />

estimated number of listings per annum is 116,480, for the priority items included in this study. Using<br />

an exchange rate based on that observed for eBay, the total weight of items exchanged per year has<br />

been estimated as a total of approximately 927.39 tonnes (for all priority items). In common with<br />

findings for eBay, furniture and large electrical result in a higher tonnage exchanged, despite lower<br />

volumes listed and exchanged. Few items of clothing are listed and exchanged on Preloved.<br />

Table A1.3 Estimated listings, exchange rate and tonnage exchanged per annum on Preloved<br />

Category<br />

Average<br />

number of<br />

new listings<br />

per week<br />

Estimated<br />

network<br />

activity per<br />

year<br />

Estimated<br />

annual<br />

tonnage<br />

Estimated<br />

exchange<br />

rate*<br />

Estimated<br />

total<br />

tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

Sofa 5 18,200 719 47% 338<br />

Dining table 4 14,560 364 49% 178<br />

Office desk 1 3,640 89 49% 43<br />

Office chair 1 3,640 44 42% 18<br />

TV 3 10,920 157 67% 105<br />

Mobile phone 8 29,120 15 82% 12<br />

Computers 1 3,640 24 59% 14<br />

Other IT 2 7,280 104 39% 41<br />

Washing machine 1 3,640 214 79% 169<br />

Leather jacket 3 10,920 16 49% 8<br />

Cotton shirt 2 7,280 1 31% 0<br />

Jumper 1 3,640 2 34% 1<br />

Total for priority<br />

items 116,480 1,748 927<br />

*based on eBay monitoring<br />

Figure A1.2 Total estimated tonnage exchanged per annum on Preloved<br />

Other IT, 41<br />

Computers, 14<br />

Mobile phone,<br />

12<br />

TV, 105<br />

Office chair, 18<br />

Office Desk, 43<br />

Leather jacket,<br />

8<br />

Washing<br />

machine, 169<br />

Dining table,<br />

178<br />

Jumper, 1<br />

Sofa, 338<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 70

Gumtree<br />

The average number of listings is higher for Gumtree than for Preloved, although there are fewer<br />

groups with only 46 Gumtree sites throughout the UK (compared with 70 for Preloved). Factoring up<br />

the findings of this study to all Gumtree groups in the UK results in a total estimated weight of items<br />

exchanged of 27,686 tonnes. Once again the larger items contribute significantly to total tonnage,<br />

and users are not listing items of clothing as frequently as they do on eBay.<br />

Table A1.4 Estimated listings, exchange rate and tonnage exchanged per annum on Gumtree<br />

Category<br />

Average<br />

number of<br />

new listings<br />

per week<br />

Estimated<br />

network<br />

activity per<br />

year<br />

Estimated<br />

annual<br />

tonnage<br />

Estimated<br />

exchange<br />

rate*<br />

Estimated<br />

total<br />

tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

Sofa 191 456,872 18,046 47% 8,482<br />

Dining table 99 236,808 5,920 49% 2,901<br />

Office desk 47 112,424 2,736 49% 1,340<br />

Office chair 20 47,840 574 42% 241<br />

TV 272 650,624 9,338 67% 6,256<br />

Mobile phone 395 944,840 472 82% 387<br />

Computers 115 275,080 1,788 59% 1,055<br />

Other IT 76 181,792 2,606 39% 1,016<br />

Washing machine 54 129,168 7,578 79% 5,987<br />

Leather jacket 8 19,136 29 49% 14<br />

Cotton shirt 35 83,720 17 31% 5<br />

Jumper 4 9,568 5 34% 2<br />

Total for priority items 3,147,872 49,109 27,687<br />

*based on eBay monitoring<br />

Figure A1.3 Total estimated tonnage exchanged per annum on Gumtree<br />

Other IT, 1,016<br />

Computers,<br />

1,055<br />

Mobile phone,<br />

387<br />

Leather<br />

jacket, 14<br />

Washing<br />

machine, 5,987<br />

TV, 6,256<br />

Cotton shirt, 5 Jumper, 2<br />

Sofa, 8,482<br />

Dining<br />

table,<br />

2,901<br />

Office Desk,<br />

1,340<br />

Office chair, 241<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 71

Freegle<br />

Whilst the numbers of items listed per month per group are quite low, there is a large number of<br />

groups (269) which means that the estimated number of annual listings is quite high (309,888).<br />

However the exchange rate for Freegle is estimated to be lower than for eBay and other sites, so that<br />

the estimated weight of material exchanged is only 691 tonnes. Freegle is used a lot for exchanging<br />

small electrical appliances. These are not listed below, as small electrical appliances generally are not<br />

classified as priority items for the purposes of this study. Mobile phones are included in the list. It is<br />

interesting to note that the number of small electrical appliances listed is 106,524, resulting in an<br />

estimated weight of items exchanged of 124 tonnes.<br />

Table A1.5 Estimated listings, exchange rate and tonnage exchanged per annum on Freegle<br />

Average<br />

listings<br />

per group<br />

per month<br />

Estimated<br />

annual<br />

tonnage<br />

Estimated<br />

exchange<br />

rate<br />

Estimated<br />

total<br />

tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

Category<br />

Annual<br />

listings<br />

Sofa 12 38,736 1,530 7.2% 110<br />

Dining table 1 3,228 81 18.2% 15<br />

Desk 9 29,052 707 14.1% 100<br />

Office chair<br />

Large electrical items<br />

(fridge, washing<br />

2 6,456 77 11.4% 9<br />

machine) 23 74,244 3,527 8.5% 300<br />

TV 14 45,192 649 5.8% 38<br />

Mobile phone 6 19,368 10 4.5% 0<br />

Computer<br />

Other IT (printers,<br />

monitors, mice,<br />

10 32,280 210 9.1% 19<br />

consoles, software) 18 58,104 833 12.1% 101<br />

Leather jacket 0 0 0 0.0% 0<br />

Shirt 1 3,228 1 0.0% 0<br />

Jumper 0 0 0 0.0% 0<br />

Total for priority listings<br />

309,888 7,623<br />

692<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 72

Figure A1.4 Total estimated tonnage exchanged per annum on Freegle<br />

Other IT, 101<br />

Computer, 19<br />

Mobile Phone, 0<br />

TV, 38<br />

Large electrical<br />

items (fridge,<br />

washing<br />

machine), 300<br />

Sofa, 110<br />

Desk, 100<br />

Summary<br />

The estimated total tonnage of priority items exchanged per annum in the UK for the online exchange<br />

sites included in this study is summarised in the Table A1.6, with the same data detailed in Figure<br />

A1.5.<br />

It is worth noting that the weight of items exchanged on the local sites (e.g. Gumtree) is quite high,<br />

relative to use. Whilst eBay has by far the highest number of items listed, the items that are popular,<br />

both in terms of listings and subsequent exchanges, are generally small in size and weight and more<br />

likely to be posted to the buyer, whereas the sites with geographically specific groups are more likely<br />

to match buyers and sellers who can collect or deliver large items within their local area.<br />

Table A1.6 Estimated total weight exchanged per year (tonnes)<br />

Dining table, 15<br />

Office Chair , 9<br />

Category Ebay Preloved Gumtree Freegle Total<br />

Sofa 4,130 338 8,482 110 13,060<br />

Dining table 2,578 178 2,901 15 5,672<br />

Office desk 163 43 1,340 100 1,647<br />

Office chair 264 18 241 9 533<br />

TV 2,469 105 6,256 38 8,868<br />

Mobile phone 415 12 387 0 815<br />

Computers 202 14 1,055 19 1,290<br />

Other IT 1,603 41 1,016 101 2,761<br />

Washing machine 3,089 169 5,987 300 9,544<br />

Leather jacket 245 8 14 0 267<br />

Cotton shirt 69 0 5 0 74<br />

Jumper 210 1 2 0 212<br />

Total for priority<br />

items 15,436 927 27,687 692 44,742<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 73

Figure A1.5 Estimated total tonnage exchanged per year<br />

Tonnes<br />

9,000<br />

8,000<br />

7,000<br />

6,000<br />

5,000<br />

4,000<br />

3,000<br />

2,000<br />

1,000<br />

0<br />

Table A1.7 shows the difference between the number of items listed and the estimated tonnage<br />

exchanged per annum in the UK. This takes account of the exchange rate, i.e. the percentage of<br />

items that are actually sold or exchanged.<br />

Ebay<br />

Preloved<br />

Gumtree<br />

Freegle<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 74

Table A1.7 Comparison of numbers and estimated tonnages of items exchanged per annum in the UK for the online exchange sites included in this study<br />

Category<br />

No. items<br />

listed per<br />

year<br />

Ebay Preloved Gumtree Freegle Total<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

No.<br />

items<br />

listed<br />

per<br />

year<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

No. items<br />

listed per<br />

year<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

No.<br />

items<br />

listed<br />

per<br />

year<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

No. items<br />

listed per<br />

year<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

Sofa 222,463 4,130 18,200 338 456,872 8,482 38,736 110 736,271 13,060<br />

Dining table 210,418 2,578 14,560 178 236,808 2,901 3,228 15 465,014 5,672<br />

Office desk 13,663 163 3,640 43 112,424 1,340 29,052 100 158,779 1,647<br />

Office chair 52,449 264 3,640 18 47,840 241 6,456 9 110,385 533<br />

TV 256,724 2,469 10,920 105 650,624 6,256 45,192 38 963,460 8,868<br />

Mobile phone 1,011,764 415 29,120 12 944,840 387 19,368 0 2,005,092 815<br />

Computers 52,787 202 3,640 14 275,080 1,055 32,280 19 363,787 1,290<br />

Other IT 286,728 1,603 7,280 41 181,792 1,016 58,104 101 533,904 2,761<br />

Washing machine 66,658 3,089 3,640 169 129,168 5,987 74,244 300 273,710 9,544<br />

Leather jacket 332,852 245 10,920 8 19,136 14 0 0 362,908 267<br />

Cotton shirt 1,107,483 69 7,280 0 83,720 5 3,228 0 1,201,711 74<br />

Jumper 1,234,077 210 3,640 1 9,568 2 0 0 1,247,285 212<br />

Total for priority items 4,848,064 15,436 116,480 927 3,147,872 27,687 309,888 692 8,422,304 44,742<br />

The percentage contribution that different types of items make to total exchanges in terms of both volume and weight can be seen in Table A1.8.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 75

Table A1.8 Percentage contribution of listings and estimated tonnages of items exchanged per annum in the UK for the online exchange sites included in this study<br />

Category<br />

No. items<br />

listed per<br />

year<br />

Ebay Preloved Gumtree Freegle Total<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

No. items<br />

listed per<br />

year<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

No. items<br />

listed per<br />

year<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

No. items<br />

listed per<br />

year<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

No. items<br />

listed per<br />

year<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 76<br />

Tonnage<br />

exchanged<br />

per year<br />

Sofa 5% 27% 16% 36% 15% 31% 13% 16% 9% 29%<br />

Dining table 4% 17% 13% 19% 8% 10% 1% 2% 6% 13%<br />

Office desk 0% 1% 3% 5% 4% 5% 9% 14% 2% 4%<br />

Office chair 1% 2% 3% 2% 2% 1% 2% 1% 1% 1%<br />

TV 5% 16% 9% 11% 21% 23% 15% 5% 11% 20%<br />

Mobile phone 21% 3% 25% 1% 30% 1% 6% 0% 24% 2%<br />

Computers 1% 1% 3% 2% 9% 4% 10% 3% 4% 3%<br />

Other IT 6% 10% 6% 4% 6% 4% 19% 15% 6% 6%<br />

Washing machine 1% 20% 3% 18% 4% 22% 24% 43% 3% 21%<br />

Leather jacket 7% 2% 9% 1% 1% 0% 0% 0% 4% 1%<br />

Cotton shirt 23% 0% 6% 0% 3% 0% 1% 0% 14% 0%<br />

Jumper 25% 1% 3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 15% 0%

Combining the estimated tonnage exchanged per annum on eBay, Preloved, Gumtree and Freegle shows<br />

that an estimated 44,741 tonnes of items are reused through these online exchanges per year in the UK,<br />

taking into account all the priority items included in this study. Whilst the volume of furniture and white<br />

goods exchanged is lower than for other goods, Figure A1.6 shows that these types of items contribute<br />

significantly to the overall weight of material exchanged.<br />

Figure A1.6 Combined estimated total tonnage exchanged per year<br />

Tonnes<br />

14,000<br />

12,000<br />

10,000<br />

8,000<br />

6,000<br />

4,000<br />

2,000<br />

0<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 77

Appendix 2: Customer Survey<br />

Questionnaire<br />

Reuse – how using the internet to exchange items can help reduce waste and improve our<br />

environment<br />

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a government body<br />

dedicated to improving resource use throughout the UK, is conducting research<br />

into the environmental benefits of online exchanges.<br />

This short questionnaire is designed to increase understanding of how online<br />

exchange sites, such as eBay, Freecycle, Freegle, GumTree and Preloved, are<br />

used. Exchanging items online can have important environmental<br />

benefits by diverting reusable items away from landfill, and the aim of this<br />

research is to understand the extent of these benefits.<br />

The questionnaire should only take a couple of minutes to complete and<br />

return in the prepaid response envelope. Alternatively, you can fill the<br />

questionnaire out online by typing the following link into your internet browser:<br />

www.surveymonkey.co.uk/s/InternetBasedReuse<br />

The questionnaire requires you to enter a name and your postcode. However,<br />

these details will only be used for the purposes of this of research. Your details will<br />

not be published and will not be made available to any third parties. You will not<br />

be contacted and any answers that you give will remain anonymous.<br />

Thank you in advance for taking the time to help with this important piece of<br />

research; your time is much appreciated. So much so that every respondent will<br />

be entered into a free prize draw with the chance to win high street vouchers<br />

worth up to £50.<br />

Thank you and good luck!<br />

Name<br />

Post Code<br />

1. Do you have access to an internet connection?<br />

Yes No<br />

If No, please go to question 6<br />

2. The following section relates to your awareness and use of online exchange sites. Please mark<br />

(�) to all that apply. Regular user refers to more than once per week.<br />

Regular Occasional Aware of Not<br />

user user (but have aware of<br />

not used)<br />

eBay<br />

Freecycle<br />

Freegle<br />

GumTree<br />

Preloved<br />

Other, please<br />

specify:aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa<br />

If you have not used any exchange websites, please go to question 4 and identify the main reasons<br />

for this.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 78

3. If you have used online exchange sites, what have you used them for?<br />

Accepting Items<br />

only<br />

Accepting items<br />

with some items<br />

offered<br />

Offering items and<br />

accepting some<br />

items<br />

Offering items only<br />

Requesting items<br />

eBay<br />

Freecycle<br />

Freegle<br />

GumTree<br />

Preloved<br />

Other sites, please specify<br />

aaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaa<br />

4. Please look at the list of potential reasons for either using or not using online exchange sites.<br />

So that we can identify positive reasons from negative ones, please mark your positive reasons with a<br />

tick (�) and negative reasons with a cross (x). If a reason does not apply, it should be left blank.<br />

Ease of use<br />

Personal security<br />

Environmental benevolence<br />

Bargain hunting<br />

Difficult to understand<br />

Concerned about poor item<br />

quality<br />

Not used<br />

eBay<br />

Freecycle<br />

Freegle<br />

GumTree<br />

Preloved<br />

Other, please<br />

specify<br />

aaaaaaa aaaaaaa<br />

5. This question refers to types of items that you may have offered or accepted online. Which of<br />

the following items have you offered, accepted or would consider exchanging online?<br />

Offered<br />

Accepted<br />

Would<br />

Consider<br />

Sofa Leather jacket<br />

Dining table Cotton shirt<br />

Desk Jumper<br />

Office chair Mobile phone<br />

TV Computer<br />

Small electrical items<br />

(toaster, food processor,<br />

hairdryer)<br />

Large electrical items<br />

(fridge, washing<br />

machine)<br />

Other IT (printers,<br />

monitors, mice,<br />

consoles, software)<br />

Other items, please specify aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa<br />

Offered<br />

Accepted<br />

Would<br />

Consider<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 79

6. What offline alternatives (if any) would you use to pass on or get rid of each type of item, if<br />

you decided not/were not able to do this online?<br />

Sofa<br />

Dining table<br />

Desk<br />

Office chair<br />

TV<br />

Mobile phone<br />

Computer<br />

Other IT<br />

Other electrical e.g.<br />

toaster, hairdryer<br />

Washing machine<br />

Leather jacket<br />

Cotton shirt<br />

Jumper<br />

Other, please specify<br />

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa<br />

Other, please specify<br />

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa<br />

Keep them<br />

Refuse collection<br />

Collection of large<br />

items by council<br />

Local tip or recycling<br />

centre<br />

Charitable collection<br />

or outlet<br />

Second hand shops<br />

Car boot sales<br />

Sold offline<br />

Donated to<br />

friends/family<br />

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. Your contribution is very valuable to us.<br />

<strong>Online</strong> <strong>Exchange</strong> <strong>Potential</strong> <strong>Impact</strong> 80


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