Online Exchange Potential Impact - Wrap

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Online Exchange Potential Impact - Wrap

Final Report

Online Exchange Potential Impact

A study to develop an understanding of the benefits of online exchange,

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

through internet exchange sites.

Project code: RES144

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


WRAP’s vision is a world without waste,

where resources are used sustainably.

We work with businesses, individuals and

communities to help them reap the

benefits of reducing waste, developing

sustainable products and using resources

in an efficient way.

Find out more at www.wrap.org.uk

Written by: James Batley, Resource Futures

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

Front cover photography: Computer keyboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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Executive summary

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

possible to measure the amount of second hand goods being exchanged online and to develop an

understanding of the benefits of online exchange of second hand items. The research has been

conducted to coincide with new evidence to prioritise actions that offer the greatest environmental

and economic benefits. Exchange of items online has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years and

market information has shown an increased diversification of the online exchange market, including

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

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

or exchange goods.

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

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

study therefore addresses the goal of discovering to what extent reuse facilitated via online exchange

can be measured in quantity of goods exchanged.

The project involved two research stages, the first to monitor online exchange websites and the

second comprising a consumer survey. Specific websites were chosen for monitoring, including eBay,

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

Salvo MIE and Materials Exchange UK. Each of these works with a different type of audience in mind

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

and has engaged in well recognised advertising campaigns, Freecycle and Freegle are almost entirely

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

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

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

giving users the opportunity to make money by selling items through classified advertisements.

Twelve priority items were selected for monitoring:

Sofa Computers

Dining table Other IT, e.g. peripherals, printers & laptops

Desk Washing machines

Office chair Leather jacket

TV Cotton shirt

Mobile phones Jumper

Key conclusions from the monitoring

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

coverage, together with a clear record of whether a sale completes, made an

assessment of the final outcome of an auction possible.

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

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

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

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

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

particularly helpful for measuring the total volumes being exchanged.

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

sites, with some limitations. In some cases listings on these sites seem to be

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

not possible to tell how much was exchanged successfully since the frequency of such

exchanges could not be discerned.

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

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

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

Online Exchange Potential Impact 1


monitored, including classified ad websites and Freecycle, but converting this information to

actual exchanges and scaling up to the whole of the UK was not possible.

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

standard conversion rates, but limited information on some of the items listed meant that

confidence in the volume of items is higher than in the weight-based information derived from

them.

� The websites could improve usability and the potential to quantify this valuable information

significantly by encouraging information on whether or not a successful exchange has taken

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

items listed would make weight conversions more accurate and improve the searching and

categorising of items when monitoring is being carried out.

Factors affecting ability to measure online exchange

� The methods used for the monitoring differed for each website. This was necessary because

of the way the sites were organised. Geographical coverage made a very real difference when

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

have a decentralised structure with local areas covered separately and a lack of centrally held

data. This made comprehensive monitoring more difficult for some sites than for others.

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

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

difficult to measure the amount of goods being exchanged online and to develop an

understanding of the benefits of online exchange.

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

websites being monitored. This would have been particularly useful to find out what

proportion of exchanges had been completed for free exchange sites and for sites containing

classified ads. A follow-up opportunity would also offer an opportunity to capture

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

Consumer survey

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

by ACORN category

� Web users overall tend to be occasional rather than regular users of online exchange websites

� Small electrical and ‘other IT’ items were the most offered and accepted items from

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

survey were also commonly exchanged

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

some variation for different items; for example electrical items were more likely to go to a

recycling centre whereas textiles would likely be donated to charity or second hand shops.

Conclusions

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

successfully online and which have less potential. Generally, electrical and electronic items

were successful, with second hand mobile phones showing very high levels of successful

sales. Locally organised sites seem to show relatively high success rates with furniture and

some of the other large items.

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

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

mentioning convenience and environmental benefits as key reasons for looking for and

advertising items online.

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

an opportunity for local organisations and local authorities in particular to promote the use of

online exchange websites. This support might be as simple as providing links to exchange

websites from their own web pages.

� Whilst it is unlikely that it is possible for local authorities to quantify the benefits of the

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

will benefit from the exchange if items are prevented from entering the waste stream, through

a reduction in overall arisings per household and therefore the cost of collection and disposal.

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

unwanted items ‘waste’, bulky items in particular can be displaced from household waste

recycling centres and bulky waste collections and prevented from entering the household

waste stream.

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Contents

1.0 Introduction ................................................................................................................................ 6

2.0 Definition of Reuse ..................................................................................................................... 7

3.0 Data Gathering............................................................................................................................ 7

3.1 Background ........................................................................................................................ 7

3.2 Geographical Distance for Online Monitoring .......................................................................... 8

3.3 Items and products of interest.............................................................................................. 9

4.0 Website Specific Research........................................................................................................ 11

4.1 eBay ................................................................................................................................ 12

4.1.1 Website throughput .............................................................................................. 12

4.1.2 Proportion sold ..................................................................................................... 12

4.2 Free exchange websites ..................................................................................................... 13

4.2.1 Freecycle ............................................................................................................. 13

4.2.2 Freegle ................................................................................................................ 13

4.2.3 Quantifying exchanges on Freegle and Freecycle ..................................................... 14

4.3 Gumtree ........................................................................................................................... 15

4.3.1 Quantifying sales on Gumtree ................................................................................ 16

4.4 Preloved ........................................................................................................................... 16

4.4.1 Quantifying sales on Preloved ................................................................................ 16

4.5 Business to Business (b2b) ................................................................................................. 16

4.5.1 Quantifying b2b exchanges .................................................................................... 17

5.0 Consumer Survey ...................................................................................................................... 18

5.1 Confidence Intervals .......................................................................................................... 19

5.2 Bias and Error ................................................................................................................... 20

6.0 Monitoring Results .................................................................................................................... 20

6.1 eBay Monitoring Results ..................................................................................................... 20

6.1.1 Priority items added per week ................................................................................ 20

6.1.2 Proportions of items sold ....................................................................................... 22

6.2 Freegle Monitoring Results ................................................................................................. 27

6.3 Gumtree ........................................................................................................................... 32

6.4 Preloved ........................................................................................................................... 34

6.5 Business to Business.......................................................................................................... 36

7.0 Consumer Survey Outputs ........................................................................................................ 40

7.1 Users of Online Exchange Websites .................................................................................... 41

7.1.1 Which online exchange websites are used? ............................................................. 41

7.1.2 How have the online exchange sites been used? ...................................................... 42

7.1.3 Reasons for using online exchange sites ................................................................. 43

7.1.4 What items have been exchanged or would be considered for exchange? .................. 43

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

7.2 Non-users of online exchange websites ............................................................................... 49

7.2.1 Awareness of online exchange sites ........................................................................ 49

7.2.2 Reason for not using online websites ...................................................................... 50

7.2.3 Willingness to use online exchange sites for non-users ............................................. 50

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

online exchanges .............................................................................................................. 51

7.3 Comparison of users and non-users .................................................................................... 55

7.4 Additional analysis of alternative disposal routes .................................................................. 57

8.0 Opportunities for market development ................................................................................... 62

9.0 Observations and conclusions .................................................................................................. 63

9.1 Observations..................................................................................................................... 63

9.1.1 eBay .................................................................................................................... 63

9.1.2 Gumtree .............................................................................................................. 64

9.1.3 Preloved............................................................................................................... 64

9.1.4 Freegle/Freecycle .................................................................................................. 64

9.1.5 Consumer Survey .................................................................................................. 65

9.2 Conclusions ...................................................................................................................... 65

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Appendix 1: Weight estimates of items ............................................................................................... 67

Ebay 68

Preloved ....................................................................................................................................... 70

Gumtree ....................................................................................................................................... 71

Freegle 72

Summary ...................................................................................................................................... 73

Appendix 2: Customer Survey Questionnaire ...................................................................................... 78

Acknowledgements

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

project.

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1.0 Introduction

This research was commissioned by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme to explore the

possibilities for measuring the quantities of goods being exchanged online and to develop an

understanding of the benefits of online exchange. Online exchange in this instance refers to the

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

The definition of reuse in the context of trading raises some interesting questions about how far

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

in the Waste Framework Directive and the report discusses the definition of reuse in Section 2.0

below.

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

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

niche group, market or geography. This study focuses on general exchange sites, gathering

information on reuse and second hand exchange through a number of national and local websites

such as eBay and Freegle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

websites, being structured differently, do not require people to register to use their sites to buy

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

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

these items would be outside the scope of this report but this gives an indication of the size of the

website. Many smaller websites not covered by this report operate within more restricted geographic

areas and may receive fewer visitors or have fewer people registered to use them.

Overall findings from Verdict Research indicate that online shopping is a much stronger growth area

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

larger retailers setting up online have partly drive this growth, growth among smaller retailers has

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

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

buying, selling and exchanging is clear.

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

recorded. This monitoring has been aligned to other work investigating reuse being undertaken by

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

websites.

1 Charity Finance, Charity Shops Survey, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

alternatives are predominantly used.

2.0 Definition of Reuse

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

to confusion regarding what does and does not constitute reuse. For reuse to occur within the scope

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

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

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

potential threat to the environment or to human health’. 6

For items that have entered the waste stream and are therefore defined as waste the main applicable

legislation is drawn from the Waste Framework Directive:

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

the same purpose for which they were conceived. 7

Preparing for reuse means checking, cleaning or repairing recovery operations, by which

products or components of products that have become waste are prepared so that they can be

reused without any other pre-processing.

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

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

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

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

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

items which have been discarded.

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

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

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

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

3.0 Data Gathering

3.1 Background

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

obtained from online sources; either indirectly by actively monitoring website activity or directly from

a service provider. Data have been gathered from the following exchange websites by the following

means:

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

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

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

7 Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament

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

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

Online Exchange Potential Impact 7


� eBay (Online Monitoring)

� Freegle (Service Provider)

� Freecycle (Online Monitoring)

� Gumtree (Online Monitoring)

� Preloved (Online Monitoring)

� EastEx (Online Monitoring)

� Waste Exchange UK (Online Monitoring)

� Salvo MIE (Online Monitoring)

The exchange sites investigated in this study were selected on the basis of assumed prevalence in the

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

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

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

number of websites offering exchange services. The majority are expected to be commercially

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

the minority.

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

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

an increasingly frugal and environmentally aware society. The efficiency of service and the financial

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

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

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

part in the volume of items exchanged and follow a more traditional pattern of trading displaying

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

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

items to others within their immediate community) or because their posting rules state that offers

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

free listings section.

3.2 Geographical distance for online monitoring

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

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

items exchanged in locally based, geographically defined groups. A number of the local groups of

each exchange site were monitored as part of this research.

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

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

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

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

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

research attempted to investigate a range of area types; thus a number of groups were selected

based on their socio-economic profile.

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

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

(from 2001 Census data) was used.

The areas chosen along with related information about the population of the area, average household

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

Multiple Deprivation for Cardiff County Council and Highland Council are not included, since the

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

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

representative cross-section of the UK, based on a socio-demographic gradient.

Table 3.1 Selected local authority areas and statistics

Local Authority No. of

households

South

Northamptonshire

Council

Chichester District

Council

Cardiff County

Council

Average

Household

Size

Total

Population

IMD

2007

%

population

social grade

D or E

Percentile of

proportion of

population

that is social

grade D or E

35,729 2.45 87,402 6.46 24.4% 10%

53,328 2.25 119,771 12.08 29.0% 30%

145,266 2.42 352,160 31.2% 50%

Highland Council 108,606 2.20 238,948 36.0% 70%

Doncaster MBC 130,465 2.33 304,349 30.84 41.5% 90%

Where possible, exchange groups located within these local authority areas have been used.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

possible an alternative location was identified. The groups were therefore chosen based on the

number of members, closeness of match to the desired socio-economic profile and the number of

items listed. For example, Towcester has been chosen to represent South Northamptonshire District

Council, and the Highland Council area is substituted by Aberdeenshire West and Central Fife.

Whilst the socio-demographic profile of the areas monitored was controlled through selecting a

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

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

were addressed through the consumer survey (see Section 5.0).

3.3 Items and products of interest

Online trade and exchange has been increasing steadily over the last decade in line with internet

access, and the demand and range of articles traded online is only limited by individual

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

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

collectibles.

The huge variety of items presented for exchange obviously contributes to any benefit of online

trading (environmental or commercial) and, although occasionally interesting, they represent noise

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

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

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

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

noted that ‘Computers’ only includes desktop computers and excludes laptops.

Table 3.2 WRAP list of priority products for reuse

Categories Specific products

Domestic furniture Sofa

Dining table

Office furniture Desk

Office chair

Electrical TV

Mobile phones

Computers

Other IT, e.g. peripherals, printers & laptops

Washing machines

Textiles Leather jacket

Cotton shirt

Jumper

For each of the exchange websites, the same priority items were monitored. Monitoring the priority

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

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

if it was obvious from the picture or the description that the search result was not the actual priority

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

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

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

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

IT’ or office furniture.

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

expense of washing machines. Small electrical items include products such as toasters, food

processors and hair dryers and large electrical items include washing machines, fridges and

dishwashers. This change facilitated more detailed analysis of the Freegle data, but as the change

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

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

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

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

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

an estimated one per week on Freegle.

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Table 3.3 eBay search criteria for priority items

WRAP category Search terms

Sofa ‘sofa’ (all eBay categories)

Dining table ‘dining table’ (all eBay categories)

Office desk ‘office desk’ in business, office and industrial then office equipment and supplies

Office chair ‘chair’ in business, office and industrial then office equipment and supplies

TV ‘television’, refine to ‘televisions’ category (to avoid accessories)

Mobile phone refine to ‘mobile and smart phone’ category

Computers refine to ‘desktop PCs and monitors’, then ‘desktop PCs’ (to avoid laptops)

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

Washing machine ‘washing machine’ (all eBay categories)

Leather jacket ‘leather jacket’ (all eBay categories)

Cotton shirt ‘cotton shirt’ (all eBay categories)

Jumper ‘jumper’ (all eBay categories)

4.0 Website-Specific Research

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

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

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

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

items sold. For Preloved and Gumtree, items listed are not necessarily removed when sold. For these

sites the numbers of items offered at any one time were quantified. Comprehensive data were

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

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

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

Business-to-business sites exchange different materials from the sites mentioned above, with fewer

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

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

number of sites were recorded during the monitoring exercise.

The monitoring and assessment of items exchanged differs between the websites. Therefore the

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

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

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

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

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

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

the item could be relisted if no exchange took place.

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

these difficulties within the overall aims of the research.

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4.1 eBay

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

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

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

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

weekend days.

4.1.1 Website throughput

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

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

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

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

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

or bulk items aimed at the business sector.

In order to gain an understanding of the turnover of items on the site, the number of each of the

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

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

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

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

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

within the excluded eBay categories are included in the monitoring outputs. This is because,

irrespective of eBay category, the eBay search engine is not limited to specific categories.

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

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

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

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

monitoring it is not possible to make realistic adjustments for annual variations in throughput.

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

this research and neither have other religious festivals involving gifts, the impacts of house

clearances, deaths, or bankruptcy. Monitoring the websites during the summer months (when

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

These omissions may lead to some degree of underestimation of the total volumes offered and

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

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

monitoring.

4.1.2 Proportion sold

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, 9 with fewer items sold on Friday and Saturday

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

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

them were monitored during peak times (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening) and half were

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

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

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

Online Exchange Potential Impact 12


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

a longer time period until results for 100 items were obtained.

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

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

monitored in the same way as auction items.

4.2 Free exchange websites

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

on such sites are being exchanged for reuse when they are exchanged. The free exchange sites

present an opportunity to benevolently seek an alternative outlet for unwanted items. The two sites

to which this applies and are included in this study are Freecycle and Freegle. Other websites offering

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

interests or have been developed by local authorities as an alternative to national sites such as

Freecycle and Freegle.

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

organised into groups which are based on geographical location. These groups are not the same for

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

chosen that broadly cover the same overall location.

4.2.1 Freecycle

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

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

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

activity is moderated.

Five Freecycle groups were monitored over the course of a week. The chosen Freecycle groups were

in Cardiff, Chichester, Doncaster, Inverness and Towcester. Resource Futures became a member of

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

wanted in the group. These posts were recorded over the week for each group in an Excel

spreadsheet.

The data from Freecycle were obtained for seven days from 11 August 2010.

4.2.2 Freegle

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

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

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

listings from the groups specified in Table 4.1.

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

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

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

to have no impact on the overall results.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 13


Table 4.1 Freegle groups assessed

Group Geographic region

Aberdeenshire West Scotland

Central Fife

Edinburgh

Flintshire Wales

Caerphilly

Welshpool, Newtown and Montgomery

Bognor England

Greencycle (Brighton)

Havant

Rotherham

Towcester

4.2.3 Quantifying exchanges on Freegle and Freecycle

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

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

with a basic item description and the location of the item, should appear in the subject of the listings

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

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

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

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

which contains most of the same text in the subject field.

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

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

significant of these subcategories fall under the small and large electrical item groups specified by

WRAP and these are included in Table 4.2.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 14


Table 4.2 Electrical item subcategories

Large electrical items Small electrical items

Fridge/Fridge-Freezer/Freezer Lighting

Large electrical garden tools Video/DVD, Games, Consoles, Digital

receivers

Washing machines/Washer drier Hi-fi separates

Musical instruments (keyboards,

organs)

Microwave ovens

Sunbed Fan

Air conditioning/dehumidifying Small electrical garden equipment

equipment

Dishwasher Toaster, kettles, food processing

equipment

Cooking equipment Sewing machine

Vacuum cleaners Irons

Beauty electricals

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

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

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

assumed based on provisional monitoring of obvious matched pairs. There are four matched pairs:

� Offered/Taken

� Wanted/Received

� Offered/Received

� Wanted/Taken

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

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

possible that a matched pair does not always indicate a successful exchange as an online agreement

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

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

information does not make it possible to establish with greater certainty than this whether exchanges

have taken place.

4.3 Gumtree

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

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

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

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

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

top of the advert listings.

10 http://sheffield.gumtree.com/about_us.html

Online Exchange Potential Impact 15


4.3.1 Quantifying sales on Gumtree

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

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

closest available areas were used instead, these being Milton Keynes, Portsmouth and Sheffield

respectively. There are demographic differences between, for example, Towcester (a small market

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other issues associated with monitoring Gumtree listings include the variability of group usage and

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

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

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

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

locally representative, or be a significantly larger research project in order to be representative of the

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

than representative of usage.

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

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

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

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

Gumtree adverts were sampled on 8 September 2010. Gumtree was only monitored for one day

because items remain advertised for 30 days; therefore one month of advertised items can be

monitored in one day.

4.4 Preloved

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

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

4.4.1 Quantifying sales on Preloved

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

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

appeared to cover Towcester and Chichester. The numbers of each priority item advertised in each of

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

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

because items remain advertised for 30 days, and therefore one month of advertised items can be

monitored in one day.

4.5 Business-to-business (b2b)

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

but they serve only the commercial sector. There are a number of providers but the total number of

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

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

Online Exchange Potential Impact 16


Outsourced procurement refers to the purchasing habits of organisations. Many businesses use a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

difference arises from the sheer volume of potential users from the residential sector over those from

a commercial background. Furthermore, the larger range of items derived from exchanges within the

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

items listed.

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

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

4.5.1 Quantifying b2b exchanges

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

majority of listings appeared to be semi-permanent, consisting of repeat listings or regular byproducts

from different commercial/ industrial processes.

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

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

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

quantities of Premix concrete or metallic sludge (Waste Exchange had a listing for hydroxide sludge).

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

collected for b2b covers a much larger geographic area and a much higher proportion of total

exchanges than the other sites monitored because of the lower quantities of items changing hands.

In some cases, all content on the site has been monitored.

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

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

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

can apply to a much wider range of commonly classifiable materials and items than would apply to

householders and the items they would exchange. The categories also suggest that some of the

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

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

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

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

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

household sector) would require a separate exercise to effectively differentiate the categories and the

elements that relate to genuine reuse.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 17


Table 4.3 Material categories on b2b websites

EastEx Waste Exchange UK SalvoMIE

Batteries Acids Ash crushed concrete aggregate

Building materials Alkalis Hoardings

Chemical liquids Construction material / aggregates Metals

Drums and containers Container and pallet Paints

Electricals and electronics Electronic Plasterboard

Furniture and fittings Food waste Plastics

Glass and ceramics Glass Soils, Recycled soils and Compost

Metals Green waste Various and mixed

Oils Metal and metal sludge

Pallets Miscellaneous

Paper and card Oil and wax

Plant and equipment Other chemicals

Plastic and rubber Packaging materials

Putrescibles Paint and coating

Textiles and clothing Paper and cardboard

Vehicle parts Plastic and rubber

Wood and timber Solvent

Miscellaneous Textile and leather

5.0 Consumer Survey

Wood

A consumer survey was compiled with the aim of gaining further insight into the reasons why

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

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

to understand the activity of:

� Consumers with an online presence that use online exchanges.

� Those with an online presence who do not use online exchanges.

� Those who do not have an online presence.

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

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

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

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

stratified according to ACORN, eTypes, age and geographical area in order to be a representative

sample of the UK.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 18


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

through Freegle and Freecycle); and what proportion will both accept and offer items.

Table 5.1 Broad themes of the survey

Consumers with online presence Consumers with no online

presence

Use of sites Awareness of activity

Which sites know of / use Which sites

Past items offered Reason for no online presence

Past items taken Would consider using

Frequency of use What types of items

Types of items considered

The next questions aimed to understand the reasons why consumers use online exchanges, and the

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

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

security, environmental benevolence and bargain hunting, considered alongside reasons that impaired

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

may be beneficial to include an option to score websites rather than select predetermined reasons for

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

information could then be used to identify user priorities when choosing which websites to use.

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

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

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

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

collection or donated elsewhere.

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

than via the online portal).

5.1 Confidence intervals

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

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

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

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

assume that between 47% and 53% of UK households regularly use eBay.

Standard statistical tests were carried out to explore the differences between ACORN categories.

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

Online Exchange Potential Impact 19


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

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

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

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

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

households behave any differently to ACORN 5 households (as the confidence intervals for each

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

differences, although they may exhibit statistically significant differences at a lower confidence level

(i.e. 90%).

5.2 Bias and error

The ability of householders in the sample frame to elect whether they participate in the survey will

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

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

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

misunderstanding the question or terminology used.

6.0 Monitoring Results

This section includes the results of the internet monitoring undertaken as part of this research, which

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

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

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

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

of the total tonnage of items exchanged. Estimated weights of items exchanged on eBay, Gumtree,

Preloved and Freegle are included in Appendix 1.

Weight estimates have been kept separate from this section, since there is significantly less

confidence in the weight estimates, in comparison to estimated numbers of items sold and

exchanged. It is problematic to provide corresponding estimates for tonnes of items sold or

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

different subcategories of the same category. For example the FRN average weight list includes 13

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

sizes of televisions, coupled with the different types of television, means that the weight can vary

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

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

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

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

example relating to different types of televisions).

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

tonnage can obscure the true success of exchange sites. Measures of success that are more valid

might arguably be related to the number of items exchanged, awareness of online exchange

communities and levels of usage of their sites.

6.1 eBay monitoring results

6.1.1 Priority items added per week

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

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

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

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

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

Online Exchange Potential Impact 20


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

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

Table 6.1 Number of items added to eBay in one week

Item Total added in 1

week

Total for year

(rounded estimate)

Sofa 4,210 218,900

Dining table 3,364 174,900

Office desk 207 10,800

Office chair 678 35,300

TV 4,263 221,700

Mobile phone 22,794 1,185,300

Computers 962 50,000

Other IT 3,305 171,900

Washing machine 1,071 55,700

Leather jacket 3,995 207,700

Cotton shirt 17,236 896,300

Jumper 19,803 1,029,800

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

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

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

presents these findings in chart form.

Figure 6.1 Total items added in one week on eBay

Number of items added

25,000

20,000

15,000

10,000

5,000

0

Online Exchange Potential Impact 21


6.1.2 Proportions of items sold

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

suggests that the majority of the mobile phones advertised on eBay are actually sold, whereas the

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

advertised, the proportion of cotton shirts and jumpers sold is much lower.

Figure 6.2 Proportion of items sold on eBay

% sold

90%

80%

70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

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

for each type of item.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 22


Figure 6.3 Average final bid price of items sold on eBay

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

have the highest average final bid price of approximately £110. Mobile phones have an average final

selling price of approximately £79.

Figure 6.4 Average final bid for sold items and average starting bid of unsold items on eBay

Cost (£)

Average final bid (£)

£120.00

£100.00

£80.00

£60.00

£40.00

£20.00

£0.00

£180.00

£160.00

£140.00

£120.00

£100.00

£80.00

£60.00

£40.00

£20.00

£0.00

Average

final bid for

sold items

Average

starting

price of

unsold

items

Online Exchange Potential Impact 23


Comparing the average final bid price for items that have sold with the average starting price of

unsold items reveals that in many cases unsold items have been listed with a starting price higher

than the average selling price. The only categories where average starting prices for unsold items

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

of item.

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

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

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

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

but did not sell as well as the other highly priced items.

Figure 6.5 Proportion of items sold by average final bid on eBay

Average final bid

£120.00

£100.00

£80.00

£60.00

£40.00

£20.00

£0.00

0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%

Proportion sold

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

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

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

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

of sales of these items were the lowest of all the items that were monitored.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 24


Figure 6.6 Proportion sold by average number listed on eBay

Average number listed

25000

20000

15000

10000

Jumper

Cotton shirt

Mobile phone

5000

0

Leather jacket

Other IT

Sofa

TV

Dining table

Office chair

Desk Computer

Washing machine

0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%

Proportion sold

Comparing the numbers of items added with the proportion of items sold produces an estimate of the

number of each item sold each week. Whilst Figure 6.6 suggests that proportionately cotton shirts

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

a relatively high number of these items are added each week and that consequently shirts and

jumpers combined are second only to mobile phones in estimated number of items sold.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 25


Table 6.2 Estimated numbers of items actually sold on eBay in one week

Item Total added in

1 week

Proportion sold Estimated

number sold per

week

Sofa 4,210 47% 1,979

Dining table 3,364 46% 1,547

Office desk 207 38% 79

Office chair 678 42% 285

TV 4,263 67% 2,856

Mobile phone 22,794 82% 18,691

Computers* 962 57% 548

Other IT 3,305 39% 1,289

Washing machine 1,071 79% 846

Leather jacket 3,995 49% 1,958

Cotton shirt 17,236 31% 5,343

Jumper 19,803 34% 6,733

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

included under the ‘Other IT’ category but not separately identified.

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

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

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

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

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

leather jackets sold weekly.

Finally the number of unsold items that the seller relisted was recorded. This was noted

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

onto eBay and list the item for auction once again should they wish.

Figure 6.7 shows the number of items that did not sell and the number of these items that the sellers

relisted. The figure also shows the proportion of unsold items that were relisted. High proportions of

jumpers, computers, dining tables, mobile phones and cotton shirts are relisted. For jumpers, cotton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

avoided.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 26


Figure 6.7 Numbers of items unsold and relisted on eBay

Number / % of items

80

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

0

6.2 Freegle monitoring results

Number unsold Number relisted Proportion relisted (%)

The following tables and figures illustrate the quantities of items listed on Freegle over the monitoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

should appear at the front of every listing.

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

provided. Throughout the monitoring period only one item was withdrawn (from the Rotherham

Freegle group).

Online Exchange Potential Impact 27


Table 6.3 Freegle listing status classification

Group (Freegle) Offered Taken Wanted Received

Aberdeenshire West 181 44 143 7

Bognor 217 107 187 7

Caerphilly 192 63 117 2

Central Fife 218 86 241 11

Edinburgh 1,117 400 631 23

Flintshire 182 52 216 8

Green Cycle (Brighton) 618 176 375 9

Havant 68 25 59 0

Rotherham 236 80 250 5

Towcester 46 15 38 0

Welshpool, Newtown and

Montgomery

178 46 168 6

Total 3,253 1,094 2,425 78

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

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

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

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

period.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wanted/Received and Wanted/Taken).

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

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

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

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

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

not actively undertaken. This could lead to an underestimation of the actual number of successful

exchanges. Further research may be required to identify actual successful exchanges and this may

require contacting site users.

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

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

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

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

the individual groups monitored.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 28


Table 6.4 Freegle item classification summary

Group (Freegle) Total

Listings

Total

Listings

Classified

(WRAP &

FRN)

Classified

(WRAP)

Classified

(FRN)

Total

Exchanged

Online Exchange Potential Impact 29

Total

Categorised

Exchanges

(WRAP &

FRN)

Aberdeenshire West 375 213 87 164 22 15

Bognor 518 303 109 247 45 26

Caerphilly 374 195 66 160 38 18

Central Fife 556 322 110 246 59 38

Edinburgh 2,171 1,212 515 916 268 149

Flintshire 458 210 67 181 11 9

Green Cycle (Brighton) 1,178 645 242 499 96 54

Havant 152 84 24 71 9 4

Rotherham 572 326 95 274 43 25

Towcester 99 66 18 53 9 8

Welshpool, Newtown

and Montgomery

398 217 88 168 14 8

Total 6,851 3,793 1,421 2,979 614 354

Figure 6.8 Number of items listed on Freegle using the WRAP classification

Number of Items

400

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

WRAP Item Category


Figure 6.9 Items listed per group on Freegle using WRAP classification

Number of Items

600

500

400

300

200

100

0

WRAP Item Category

Jumper

shirt

Leather jacket

Other IT (printers, monitors,

mice, consoles, software)

Computer

Mobile Phone

TV

Small electrical items

(toaster, food processor,

hairdryer)

Large electrical items (fridge,

washing machine)

Online Exchange Potential Impact 30


Figure 6.10 Items exchanged on Freegle using WRAP classification

A detailed analysis of Freecycle has not been possible because (unlike Freegle) data have not been

provided by the service provider. Therefore Freecycle has been monitored in a similar way to the

other exchange sites, by actually gathering listings as they became available over a much shorter

period of time and from a much smaller number of groups. However as Freegle and Freecycle are

very similar in their operation, we can assume that the types of items listed are broadly similar.

Table 6.5 shows the quantities of items listed on Freecycle.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 31


Table 6.5 Freecycle listing status classification

Group (Freecycle) Offered Taken Wanted Received

Cardiff 428 183 250 11

Chichester 119 38 90 2

Inverness 105 34 95 3

Doncaster 66 44 43 7

Towcester 5 5 14 1

Total 723 304 492 24

6.3 Gumtree

The total number of each of the priority items being advertised regionally on Gumtree was recorded

and is shown in Table 6.5.

Table 6.5 Priority items being advertised on Gumtree

Item Milton

Keynes

Portsmouth Cardiff Sheffield Inverness Total

Sofa 45 170 364 227 148 954

Dining table 19 60 236 144 34 493

Office desk 15 53 75 66 28 237

Office chair 11 17 46 14 13 101

Television 74 230 511 413 134 1,362

Mobile phone 119 209 967 595 83 1,973

Computers 19 72 268 159 57 575

Other IT 31 61 168 50 71 381

Washing machine 9 74 109 59 18 269

Leather jacket 1 6 14 14 6 41

Cotton shirt 7 18 88 44 16 173

Jumper 2 3 8 9 0 22

Once again mobile phones feature highly amongst items being exchanged, with 967 adverts in the

Cardiff area and 595 in Sheffield. Large quantities of televisions were also advertised through

Gumtree, with 511 in Cardiff and 412 in Sheffield; and relatively high numbers of sofas. Very few

leather jackets or jumpers are advertised on Gumtree, and office furniture did not feature as highly as

household furniture. These findings can be seen in Figure 6.11.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 32


Figure 6.11 Total numbers of advertisements for each type of item across all regions on Gumtree

Total number of advertisements

2000

1800

1600

1400

1200

1000

800

600

400

200

0

Cardiff and Sheffield are the most active Gumtree regions, with Cardiff having 2,854 priority item

adverts and Sheffield 1,794. Portsmouth had 973 adverts, and Inverness 608 during the period

monitored. Activity in Milton Keynes was substantially lower with just 352 adverts in total. The

number of adverts for each type of item in the different regions is shown in Figure 6.12. Adverts for

sofas and televisions were most common in Inverness, and televisions were most common in

Portsmouth. In Milton Keynes, Cardiff and Sheffield, mobile phones were the most commonly

advertised item. Adverts for office equipment and textiles were low across all areas.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 33


Figure 6.12 Total numbers of adverts for each type of item across all areas on Gumtree

Total number of advertisements

1000

900

800

700

600

500

400

300

200

100

0

6.4 Preloved

Milton Keynes Portsmouth Cardiff Sheffield Inverness

Activity on Preloved is much lower than that on Gumtree, with just 163 adverts in total for all priority

items across all five areas. Table 6.6 shows the number of adverts for each item in each area. The

most adverts found for any search was for mobile phones in Doncaster, for which 17 adverts were

listed. In many cases just one or two adverts appeared for each search, with some searches yielding

no results at all in that area. In particular there is very little Preloved activity in Inverness; out of all

the searches conducted for priority items, just three adverts were returned (for two computers and

one leather jacket).

Online Exchange Potential Impact 34


Table 6.6 Total adverts for priority items on each area on Preloved

Item Milton

Keynes

Portsmouth Cardiff Doncaster Inverness Totals

Sofa 8 5 5 5 0 23

Dining table 1 8 1 12 0 22

Office desk 1 2 0 1 0 4

Office chair 1 1 0 2 0 4

Television 8 4 4 1 0 17

Mobile phone 12 5 4 17 0 38

Computers 1 0 1 1 2 5

Other IT 5 5 0 2 0 12

Washing machine 0 2 0 3 0 5

Leather jacket 7 2 1 4 1 15

Cotton shirt 0 0 0 12 0 12

Jumper 0 3 0 3 0 6

As can be seen from Figure 6.13, mobile phones are the most popular item posted on Preloved,

followed by sofas and then dining tables. The regional aspect of Preloved may make it a better outlet

for items that cannot be sent via Royal Mail. Again, there are fewest adverts for office equipment,

and low numbers of ads for computers and washing machines.

Figure 6.13 Total numbers of adverts for all items across all areas on Preloved

Total Number of Adverts

40

35

30

25

20

15

10

5

0

Online Exchange Potential Impact 35


Doncaster is the most active area on Preloved, with a total of 63 adverts appearing for the priority

items. Milton Keynes and Portsmouth are also active, with 44 and 37 adverts respectively. In Cardiff

there were 16 adverts in total and in Inverness just 3. The regional differences can be seen in Figure

6.14.

Figure 6.14 Total numbers of adverts for each type of item on Preloved

Number of adverts

18

16

14

12

10

8

6

4

2

0

For Preloved (as for Gumtree) it was not possible to monitor successful exchanges using information

obtained from the website, only the number of adverts placed. It could be assumed that similar

success rates for exchange were achieved with items on Preloved as on the other free exchange sites

listed (Freegle and Freecycle); although lower overall use of the site suggests this might not

necessarily be the case.

To investigate how much exchange is occurring on Preloved (as well as the other regional exchange

sites) it would be necessary to actually contact users of the website who had placed the advert and

ask them (perhaps two or three weeks after placing it) if the exchange went ahead.

6.5 Business-to-Business

Milton Keynes Portsmouth Cardiff Doncaster Inverness

B2b exchange websites are growing steadily in number and use, but there appears to be a different

set of drivers compared with domestic exchange sites. This is most apparent in the range of materials

and classification of materials offered. As discussed in Section 4.5, most of the WRAP- and FRN-based

lists are irrelevant to b2b exchange and therefore the monitoring of b2b websites has been based on

the item categories used within those sites. Where possible items that matched the lists provided by

WRAP and FRN were monitored; these include items such as IT peripherals and items of furniture.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 36


Table 4.3 (in Section 4.5) lists the material categories found on each of the above sites and

highlighted (in italics) are the categories that could potentially be aligned with the WRAP-based list

and the FRN-based list if required.

Table 6.7 contains a review of all the items listed on EastEx, irrespective of the regional location of

arising. A total of 534 items were listed and the vast majority of these are always present on the site

with no evidence of exchange. The items all appear to be regular by-products of contributors’

processes.

Table 6.7 EastEx total listings per category

Category Total

Listings

Category Total Listings

Batteries 1 Pallets 41

Building materials 16 Paper and card 58

Chemical liquids 12 Plant and equipment 7

Drums and containers 21 Plastic and rubber 111

Electricals and electronics 15 Putrescibles 2

Furniture and fittings 33 Textiles and clothing 55

Glass and ceramics 28 Vehicle parts 10

Metals 0 Wood and timber 64

Oils 5 Miscellaneous 55

Whereas non-commercial exchange sites (non-b2b) have a relatively high turnover of listings and

items, the b2b sites appear to have a significant volume of constant listings. This is due to the large

proportion of by-products listed which are produced at a steady rate. For example, one member of

EastEx appears to have a constant supply of pallets which are listed on EastEx (and potentially other

b2b sites), and the listing does not change irrespective of the rate of valid exchange. This means

proving the quantity of exchange is a difficult task and would require direct contact with producers,

which was not done for this study.

Table 6.8 shows the total listings currently available on SalvoMIE for England. This site is clearly a

small player in the sector, though this is unsurprising as it concentrates on unused raw materials.

Construction waste is covered by a wealth of regulation that could limit transfer and therefore the

total number of listings appearing on Salvo MIE. The cost of haulage is also likely to be very high in

relation to the value of the item listed.

The classic situation with business material exchange systems (online or otherwise) is that they have

relatively short lifespans. In the first period, many exchanges occur that put ‘producers’ in contact

with ‘users’; once these links have been established, the transaction continues in private, in a direct

b2b manner. Thus it is highly likely that the b2b sites monitored, if running for extended periods, are

left with more difficult materials that cannot be so readily exchanged.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 37


Table 6.8 Salvo MIE – total listings across England

Category England

Concrete and recycled aggregate 18

Hoardings 1

Metals 1

Paints 2

Plasterboard 1

Plastics 2

Soils, Recycled soils and Compost 1

Various and mixed 20

Total 46

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, only two listings were made and these were both in

Scotland and both under ‘Various and mixed’.

Waste Exchange UK provides for exchange of a much wider range of materials and product types. It

has a large number of listings across a wide range of categories and some recognition outside

England. The listings appear static, often being repeated every month as part of ongoing work or

processes.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 38


Table 6.9 Waste Exchange UK total listings per category

Category England Scotland Wales Northern

Ireland

Acids 15 0 3 1

Alkalis 4 1 3 0

Construction Material / Aggregates 58 3 3 0

Container and Pallet 44 1 0 1

Electronic 20 1 0 0

Food Waste 25 0 0 0

Glass 35 0 0 2

Green Waste 10 0 0 1

Metal and Metal Sludge 60 2 0 0

Miscellaneous 71 0 1 2

Oil and Wax 21 0 0 0

Other Chemicals 22 0 0 0

Packaging Materials 83 3 2 3

Paint and Coating 20 1 0 0

Paper and Cardboard 145 0 4 0

Plastic and Rubber 127 2 1 3

Solvent 12 0 0 0

Textile and Leather 23 1 0 0

Wood 65 1 0 1

Total 860 16 17 14

One observation of the national listings on Waste Exchange UK is that the vast majority are in

Gloucestershire (518 out of 907), which seems best explained by the fact that the site is advertised

through the Gloucestershire County Council website, along with a large selection of other exchange

portals and providers. 11 The website originates and is still based in Stroud. There would seem to have

been little national take-up so far but its presence on the County Council’s website suggests good

local recognition can increase use. It is not known if other local authorities promote sites such as

Waste Exchange UK.

11 http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5250

Online Exchange Potential Impact 39


7.0 Consumer Survey Outputs

This section describes the outputs from the consumer survey. This part of the research was

conducted to provide supplementary evidence to better explain consumer behaviour relating to online

exchange. In particular, it was designed to learn where items may be taken for disposal, or how they

may be exchanged if they are not being exchanged online. Questions were also asked to try and

understand the levels of web usage and use of the websites in focus, as well as other websites not

included in the monitoring work.

The sample profile of respondents in each ACORN category is shown in Table 7.1.

Table 7.1 Respondents split by ACORN

ACORN

Category

Number of

respondents

Percentage

of

respondents

Base 1,092 100%

Percentage

split of UK

ACORN 1 287 26% 24%

ACORN 2 180 16% 13%

ACORN 3 295 27% 28%

ACORN 4 132 12% 13%

ACORN 5 198 18% 22%

Responses were grouped according to whether or not they could access the internet, and whether

they were users of online exchange websites.

Table 7.2 shows the breakdown of responses for all respondents by internet use and use of exchange

websites. The analysis of the survey in the following sections has split the respondents into two

groups: those who use online exchange websites (583 respondents) and those who do not (509

respondents).

Table 7.2 Use of online exchange sites and access to an internet connection

Do you have an internet

connection?

Have you ever used an online exchange website?

Yes No Base %

Yes 582 53% 188 17% 770 71

No 1 0% 321 29% 322 29

Base 583 53% 509 47% 1,092 100

It can be seen that the majority of respondents do have an internet connection and have used an

online exchange website (53%).

The survey obtained responses from 321 householders (29%) who do not have access to the internet

and do not use online exchange websites. This figure correlates well with national data from the

Online Exchange Potential Impact 40


Office of National Statistics (ONS), which states that there were 19.2 million households with an

internet connection in 2010, representing 73% of households. Whilst we acknowledge there might

have been bias as a result of a lower response rate from those who feel that the survey does not

apply to them, the statistic from the ONS would indicate that this has not been the case.

Table 7.3 shows how many people in each ACORN category stated that they use online exchange

websites.

Table 7.3 Use of online exchange sites

ACORN category

All 1 2 3 4 5

Base 1,092 287 180 295 132 198

Yes 53% 55% 66% 54% 51% 41%

No 47% 45% 34% 46% 49% 59%

Significance

(result is

significantly

different from

other ACORN

results)

n/a

ACORN 2

ACORN 5

ACORN 1

ACORN 3

ACORN 4

ACORN 5

ACORN 2

ACORN 5

ACORN 2

ACORN 1

ACORN 2

ACORN 3

Less affluent households in ACORN group 5 are statistically least likely to have used exchange

websites – only 41% in this group have used an exchange website. ACORN group 2 shows the

highest level of usage at 66%, significantly more than other groups. ACORN group 2 households are

generally younger professionals and students, which explains the high level of internet access.

The significance row in Table 7.3 shows which results are significantly different from others based on

a statistical T-test. The number shown refers to the ACORN category for which the sample result is

significantly different. However, for many of the results shown in the following sections, there are no

significant differences between ACORN groups (at a 95% confidence level), which is due to the

smaller sample sizes once responses to individual questions are broken down by group.

7.1 Users of online exchange websites

This section shows the results of the group of 583 respondents who said that they have used

exchange websites. The questions relate to their awareness and use of the sites, as well as the ways

in which they use them, reasons why and the types of item they would willingly exchange.

7.1.1 Which online exchange websites are used?

Respondents who do use online exchange sites were asked about their awareness and use of such

sites. The consumer exchange sites monitored for this report were asked about directly: eBay,

Freecycle, Freegle, Gumtree and Preloved. Respondents were also able to give an ‘other’ answer.

Across all ACORN groups, respondents tend to be occasional rather than regular users for all sites,

including eBay. People are clearly very aware of the eBay brand and it had the highest stated use

(91% of respondents use it regularly or occasionally). Preloved and Freegle were the least used sites

(12% and 6% using them, respectively), and had the lowest levels of awareness among respondents.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 41


Freecycle (37%) and Gumtree (29%) had reasonable levels of reported use by respondents, though it

has been previously pointed out that those using exchange websites may also have been more likely

to fill in the questionnaire as they would feel it relates to them. Only 69 respondents said they use

other exchange websites, and only 40 people specified which website that was, of which Greencycle,

Friday free adverts, and Amazon were the most mentioned.

Clearly the higher awareness and use of eBay by respondents helps explain the results from the

monitoring, so that the site most people are using is more likely to see a higher flow of second hand

goods through exchanges arranged on it.

7.1.2 How have the online exchange sites been used?

The people who use each online exchange site were asked how they used the sites: was it for getting

hold of items (accepting or buying), offering or selling items, requesting items or a combination? The

results are presented in Figure 7.1.

Figure 7.1 How online exchange sites are used

80%

70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

accepting

offering

requesting

accepting

offering

requesting

accepting

There is a pattern here which seems to show that people are more willing to receive something

second hand if they have to pay for it. Free items (e.g. on Freecycle and Freegle) seem to be less

tempting and those sites are used more by people wanting to give things away. For eBay and

Preloved (where items are sold) there are more people accepting items than offering them. For

Freecycle and Freegle (free items websites) there are more people offering items than accepting

them. For Gumtree, which has a mix of free items and items for sale, there are more equal numbers

of people offering and accepting.

offering

requesting

accepting

offering

Requesting items

Offering and some accepting

Offering only

Accepting with some offering

Accepting only

eBay Freecycle Freegle Gumtree Preloved

requesting

accepting

Online Exchange Potential Impact 42

offering

requesting


eBay is used by 37% of users to accept items only, whereas just 8% of users only offer items. Ten

percent of respondents said that they use the website to request items, even though this is not a

feature of eBay. This compares with 30% of users requesting items through Freegle, where this is

possible. This indicates that there may be an interpretation issue regarding the question.

The users of Freecycle mainly offer items (73% of respondents) rather than accept items (29% in

total). Of the 58 users of Freegle, 74% use it solely or mainly to offer items, and 36% to solely or

mainly accept items. Users of Gumtree have 42% accepting items and 47% offering. On Preloved, of

the 38 users, 24% accept items only and 13% offer items only.

7.1.3 Reasons for using online exchange sites

Respondents were asked to note the reasons why they do or do not use each of the online exchange

sites. The complexity of the structure of the question has made it difficult to analyse, and the results

were ultimately inconclusive.

7.1.4 What items have been exchanged or would be considered for exchange?

This question focused on what items have been exchanged or accepted online and what items would

be considered when exchanging online (Figure 7.2). The same list of items was used as for the

monitoring, described in Section 3.3.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 43


Figure 7.2 Items exchanged online by users of online exchanges

Number of Responses

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

Items

Offered

Accepted

Would

consider

The items reported as most likely to have been offered and received were small electrical items,

computer peripherals, and ‘other items’, which covered a wide variety of items (the most reported

being toys, furniture, DVDs/CDs, bikes and books). Televisions and mobile phones had also been

offered by more respondents than other items. Least likely to be offered or received were leather

jackets, dining tables, desks and office chairs. Overall there were more offered items than received

items, as one would expect since not all offered items will be accepted. Some types of item were

more likely to have been received than offered (other IT, cotton shirts, jumpers and office chairs),

which provides some evidence of the level of demand for certain items. This may also be indicative of

which items are most searched for by site users.

Respondents were also asked if they would consider exchanging each type of item online. Aside from

‘other items’ (as respondents were less likely to think of ‘other items’ to add to the list), it was more

likely that respondents would consider exchanging an item that they had previously exchanged. Here

the gap between what they have already exchanged and what they would consider might be taken to

represent the ‘potential’ for that type of item, at least in terms of crudely what respondents would be

willing to do (and without attempting to quantify the likelihood of such an exchange actually taking

place). In these terms, Figure 7.2 suggests that the greatest ‘potential’ lies with online exchange of

furniture. Respondents also appear willing to exchange leather jackets and large electrical items more

Online Exchange Potential Impact 44


than they already do. There is less untapped potential with small electrical items and ‘other IT’, where

exchange of items is already taking place quite successfully. Further investigation of the level of

displacement (items diverted from the waste stream through exchange) is presented in Section 7.4.

7.1.5 Offline alternatives to dispose (or recycle/reuse) items

Respondents were asked what they would do with items that they would not exchange online. For

each item more than one route of disposal could be selected; hence it is not possible to tell which

route of disposal they would have prioritised. This also means that it has not been possible to

determine a displacement rate from other reuse options. There are various other reasons why a

survey such as this is not able to accurately determine displacement. Firstly, options such as bulky

waste collections and use of household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) do not readily allow analysis

that determines whether items disposed in this way would then have gone on to be reused. Some

bulky collections do not facilitate reuse and many HWRCs do not make reuse possible except in rare

circumstances. This is particularly likely to be the case where they only have outside storage space, in

which case items that cannot be kept outside are likely to be weather-damaged before they can be

sold for reuse. Further, the analysis of this kind of survey relies on claimed responses. It seems likely

that respondents would want to appear to be likely to ‘do the right thing’, in which case responses

such as donating to charity or to friends and family may be given more frequently than would tend to

be the case in reality.

We can reasonably presume that various factors would influence the chosen method of disposal. For

example, when moving house there is rarely enough time to arrange for exchange in the way that

one might normally prefer; and therefore easier disposal options may be taken at such times. Figure

7.3 shows the proportionate breakdown of total responses for intended disposal of all items, if the

items were not exchanged online.

Figure 7.3 Offline alternatives to dispose of (or recycle/reuse) items, proportion of responses from online

exchange users

Sold offline

6%

Car boot sales

6%

Second hand shops

11%

Donated to friends /

family

22%

Keep them

4%

Refuse collection

3%

Local tip or recycling

centre

17%

Charitable collection

or outlet

25%

Collection of large

items by council

6%

Online Exchange Potential Impact 45


Generally respondents would consider giving items to charitable collections/outlets (25%) or giving to

friends and family (22%). This was followed by taking to the local household waste recycling centre

(HWRC) (17%) and taking to a second hand shop (11%). The items taken to the HWRC may be

disposed of, recycled or taken by an onsite reuse centre, so it does not necessarily mean the item

would be sent to landfill if taken to an HWRC.

Only 3% of the responses related to disposal of items through the refuse collection, though it is

reasonable to suppose that the survey results have understated kerbside refuse as a potential

disposal route, with some respondents perhaps feeling reluctant to state that they would dispose of

items in a wasteful manner. We can expect that intended offline routes of disposal may vary by

ACORN category (as discussed in Section 7.4), since other research has shown that the

disposal/recycling behaviour of different ACORN categories varies in relation to kerbside disposal and

recycling. 12 The results do seem to indicate, in any case, that the total additional reuse that can be

attributed to the use of online sites is markedly lower than the total quantities of reuse that are

actually found to be occurring through the monitoring that was carried out and has already been

presented in this report. Additional reuse would appear likely to occur in only around 10–15% of

cases (including some of the responses giving bulky collection and use of HWRCs as likely alternatives

as well as kerbside refuse collection). This assumes that the proportion of responses involving

disposal to residual waste suggested in Figure 7.3 does offer a reasonable proportion of online

exchanges that would otherwise have been disposed of. As already explained, the true displacement

rate would involve a more detailed investigation of alternative options and how likely it is that each

would be used in any one instance.

This survey question was not constrained to investigating a respondent’s actual history of offline

disposal (or recycling/reuse) of various items, and therefore the responses often relate to the

aspirations of the respondents, rather than indicating their actual behaviour.

There could be an impact on the results arising from a respondent’s understanding of the terminology

used in the question. From a respondent’s point of view there could well be some degree of overlap

of charitable collections and second hand shops, which has not been brought out through the survey.

The distinction between the two alternatives could be subjective, depending on what individual

respondents consider to be charitable collection/outlets or second hand shops. It would seem sensible

to assume that in some less affluent areas, all second hand shops are also charitable outlets.

12 Resource Futures on behalf of WRAP, Waste Compositional Analysis by ACORN Category, 2011 (unpublished at the time of

writing).

Online Exchange Potential Impact 46


70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

Figure 7.4 Offline alternatives for disposal (or recycling/reuse) of furniture for online exchange users

Sofa Dining table Desk Office chair

Base: Sofa 708, dining table 673, desk 649, office chair 617

Keep item

Refuse collection

Collection of large items by council

Local tip or recycling centre

Charitable collection or outlet

Second hand shops

Car boot sales

Sold offline

Donated to friends / family

It can be seen that the most popular disposal routes for all furniture are donating to charity and

donating to friends and family. For sofas, dining tables and desks over 50% of people who answered

this question would donate to charity and family/friends. Office chairs would also be donated to

charity or friends and family, although taking them to the HWRC would also be an option for 38% of

respondents.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 47


70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

Figure 7.5 Offline alternatives for disposal (or recycling/reuse) of electrical items

Television Mobile

phone

Computer Other IT Other

electrical

Washing

machine

Keep item

Refuse collection

Collection of large items by council

Local tip or recycling centre

Charitable collection or outlet

Second hand shops

Car boot sales

Sold offline

Donated to friends / family

Base: TV 681, mobile 618, computer 666, other IT 583, other electrical 661, washing machine 642

There was a general pattern to the preferred disposal options for the electrical items, in that HWRCs

and donating to family/friends were the most popular options. The third most stated option for

washing machines was using the council bulky waste collection, whereas for all other electrical items

the third option was to use a charitable outlet.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 48


70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

Figure 7.6 Offline alternatives for disposal (or recycling/reuse) of clothing

Leather jacket Cotton shirt Jumper

Base: leather jacket 645, cotton shirt 674, jumper 678

The most stated disposal options for all three types of clothing items was donating to charitable

collections or outlets, followed by second hand shops and donating to friends and family.

7.2 Non-users of online exchange websites

Out of the 1,092 respondents, 509 said they did not use online exchange websites (or were assumed

not to as they did not answer the question relating to use and awareness of the different websites; or

stated that they did not have access to the internet).

7.2.1 Awareness of online exchange sites

Keep item

Refuse collection

Collection of large items by council

Local tip or recycling centre

Charitable collection or outlet

Second hand shops

Car boot sales

Sold offline

Donated to friends / family

The respondents who do not use the websites were asked if they were aware of the sites or not; the

results are shown in Figure 7.7.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 49


Number of Respondents

Figure 7.7 Awareness of online exchange websites for non-users of online exchanges

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

eBay Freecycle Freegle Gumtree Preloved

Websites

Generally, those who answered this question were more likely to be unaware of a website than to

know of it but not have used it. The exception to this was eBay, of which many more people were

aware than unaware.

7.2.2 Reason for not using online websites

Respondents were asked to rate each website for ease of use, personal security, environmental

benevolence, bargain hunting and item quality.

There was a low response rate to this question and therefore it is difficult to draw solid conclusions

from the results. However, amongst the responses that were received, the quality of an item was

reported to be the main reason for not using online exchange websites, followed by personal security

and not understanding how they worked.

7.2.3 Willingness to use online exchange sites for non-users

Aware of (but have not used)

Not aware of

All non-users were asked whether they would consider exchanging certain items online. The response

rate to this question was also low, as the data in Table 7.4 show.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 50


Table 7.4 Responses to question asking whether non-users would consider using online exchange sites

Items Base Response

Sofa 34 32

Dining table 42 39

Desk 40 38

Office chair 30 27

Television 27 26

Small electrical items 26 24

Large electrical items 30 28

Leather jacket 19 18

Cotton shirt 12 10

Jumper 11 10

Mobile phone 21 20

Computer 23 22

Other IT 32 30

Of the respondents who do not use online exchange sites, less than 10% answered this question. It is

not possible to determine whether those not answering the question would not consider exchanging

items. However, of those who did respond, the results show that the least exchangeable items were

cotton shirts and office chairs, and the most exchangeable items were televisions and computers,

although the differences between least and most exchangeable are small.

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

online exchanges

The non-users of online exchange websites were asked what they do with items they would like to

exchange or dispose of; the proportions of responses for each disposal (or recycling/reuse) option are

shown in Figure 7.8.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 51


Figure 7.8 Offline disposal (or recycling/reuse) routes for non-users of online exchanges, proportion of

responses

Second hand shops

9%

Sold offline

3% Donated to friends /

Car boot sales

2%

family

15%

Keep them

3% Refuse collection

5%

Local tip or recycling

centre

20%

Charitable collection

or outlet

31%

Collection of large

items by council

12%

This question was answered by 410 respondents. It can be seen that 31% of respondents use

charitable collections or outlets to dispose of their unwanted items. Local tips or recycling centres, i.e.

HWRCs (20%) and donating to family and friends (15%) were the other popular choices.

Figures 7.9, 7.10 and 7.11 show the offline disposal (or recycling/reuse) options for non-users of

online exchanges for each category of items (furniture, electrical and clothing).

Online Exchange Potential Impact 52


70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

Figure 7.9 Disposal (or recycling/reuse) routes for furniture, non-users of online exchanges

Sofa Dining table Desk Office chair

Base: Sofa 297, dining table 275, desk 250, office chair 226

Keep item

Refuse collection

Collection of large items by council

Local tip or recycling centre

Charitable collection or outlet

Second hand shops

Car boot sales

Sold offline

Donated to friends / family

In the furniture category, the option stated by the most respondents was donation to charity. Other

commonly stated options were the council bulky waste collection and donation to family/friends.

Office chairs differed from the other furniture types in having HWRCs as the second most frequently

stated option.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 53


70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

Figure 7.10 Disposal (or recycling/reuse) routes for electrical items, non-users of online exchanges

TV Mobile

phone

Computer Other IT Other

electrical

Washing

machine

Keep item

Refuse collection

Collection of large items by council

Local tip or recycling centre

Charitable collection or outlet

Second hand shops

Car boot sales

Sold offline

Donated to friends / family

Base: TV 284, mobile 230, computer 191, other IT 164, other electrical 287, washing machine 275

For televisions, computers, ‘other IT’ and ‘other’ electrical items, the local tip or recycling centre, i.e.

the local HWRC, was the most common response. Mobile phones differed in that the most frequent

response was donation to charity. More people said they would put a washing machine out for the

council to collect than any other route of disposal (or recycling/reuse).

Online Exchange Potential Impact 54


70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

Figure 7.11 Disposal (or recycling/reuse) routes for clothing items, non-users of online exchanges

0%

Leather jacket Cotton shirt Jumper

Base: Leather jacket 262, cotton shirt 283, jumper 295

The most frequently stated option for clothing is donation to charity, followed by taking to a second

hand shop. Over 10% of people would also possibly donate their clothing to friends or family.

Clothing seems more likely than other items (except for some electrical items) to be discarded for

refuse by non-users of online exchange. For both furniture and large electrical goods high numbers of

non-users of online exchange sites would use bulky waste collections, which involve a fairly high risk

of those items not being reused (although the electrical items will be recycled). Further analysis of

offline disposal routes can be found in Section 7.4.

7.3 Comparison of users and non-users

Keep item

Refuse collection

Collection of large items by

council

Local tip or recycling centre

Charitable collection or outlet

Second hand shops

Car boot sales

Sold offline

There were 583 users of online exchange websites and 509 non-users who participated in the survey,

although not all of them answered the questions relating to alternative disposal routes. All

respondents were asked about offline alternatives used to exchange or dispose of items. Figure 7.12

and Table 7.5 give a comparison of users and non-users of online exchange websites.

Table 7.5 shows the different offline reuse and dispose routes for all items for both users and nonusers

of online exchange. This shows that overall reuse by users of online exchange sites is slightly

higher, although some routes are well used by both (such as charitable collections). The potential

displacement from other types of reuse by offline respondents is lower (i.e. they could do more

additional reuse), though a number of options remain open to increase the amount of reuse they do,

of which online exchange websites is only one. What they switch to when they take up reuse is likely

to be a matter of convenience as much as anything. The data would suggest that there are

opportunities to increase reuse of items collected through the bulky waste system or HWRCs.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 55


100%

90%

80%

70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

Table 7.5 Comparison of offline reuse and disposal routes for users and non-users of online exchange websites

Offline alternative

Users of online

exchange

Non-users of

online exchange

Keep them 4% 3%

Refuse collection 3% 5%

Collection of large items by council 6% 12%

Local tip or recycling centre 17% 20%

Charitable collection or outlet 25% 31%

Second hand shops 11% 9%

Car boot sales 6% 2%

Sold offline 6% 3%

Donated to friends / family 22% 15%

Figure 7.12 Offline disposal routes for items, comparison of users and non-users of online exchanges

0%

Do use online sites Do not use online sites

Donated to friends / family

Sold offline

Car boot sales

Second hand shops

Charitable collection or outlet

HWRC

Collection of large items by council

Refuse collection

Keep item

For respondents who use exchange websites but are disposing of an item offline it was found that the

most commonly stated routes were to donate to charities, then to give items to friends and family,

followed by taking items to the HWRC. For those respondents who do not use exchange websites, it

can be seen that they would also dispose of their items via the same three main routes, albeit in a

different order of preference: via a charity, taking them to the HWRC and then donating to family or

friends.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 56


Differences can be seen in the higher proportion of responses relating to use of the refuse collection

and bulky-waste collection for non-users of exchange websites.

Interestingly, it seems that people who use online sites may also take more items to car boot sales,

sell offline and put less in the refuse or bulky waste collection than those who do not use the online

sites. This may suggest that overall the users of sites are more likely to put in the effort to get some

money for their unwanted items. This is consistent with the finding that non-users are more likely to

use charitable collections or to take items to charity shops.

7.4 Additional analysis of alternative disposal routes

The responses received have been further analysed to investigate differences in the behaviour of

respondents when it comes to alternative disposal routes. The analysis has been conducted for

ACORN categories and also per priority item. In particular, the alternative disposal options have been

considered to determine whether there is likely to be any displacement of waste from the municipal

waste stream to reuse outlets.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 57


Figure 7.13 and Figure 7.14 show this variation in disposal route by ACORN group in more detail for

two of the priority items: cotton shirts and sofas. This analysis is for all respondents, regardless of

whether they currently use online exchanges or not.

In viewing these results it is important to bear in mind that the responses relate to the aspirations of

the respondents and do not necessarily relate to their behaviour. For example (as discussed below),

ACORN 2 appears to have the highest aspirations in terms of using the more benevolent alternative

routes to online exchange; but this may be partially a reflection of the fact that there is higher

internet usage for ACORN 2 (with a high proportion of young professionals and students in this

category), and consequently a higher rate of participation in online activities, including online

exchanges. This may be influencing the stated responses for offline disposal alternatives. The

example of ACORN 2 aspirations is interesting because it is at odds with other research, which would

suggest that for textiles, ACORN 1 is considerably more active in terms of actually using benevolent

disposal routes (charity shops, donations) than ACORN 2. 13

Although all groups are most likely to donate a cotton shirt to a charity, there are differences

between the habits of the different ACORN categories. For example, it can be seen that ACORN 2 is

the group that is most likely to aspire to take a cotton shirt to a charitable collection or outlet, second

hand shop, sell the item offline, take it to a car boot sale, or donate it to friends and family (although

the comments above regarding the possible difference between behaviour and intention need to be

borne in mind here). ACORN 5, on the other hand, is the most likely to put the item in the refuse

collection and more likely to take it to the local tip or recycling centre (i.e. HWRC). It is also worth

noting there are some odd responses, for example the use of a council bulky waste collection for

cotton shirts.

13 Resource Futures on behalf of WRAP, Waste Compositional Analysis by ACORN Category, 2011 (unpublished at the time of

writing).

Online Exchange Potential Impact 58


Percentage of respondents

Figure 7.13 Offline disposal routes for cotton shirts by ACORN group

80%

70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

Offline Disposal Route

Acorn 1

Acorn 2

Acorn 3

Acorn 4

Acorn 5

For sofas, on the other hand, ACORN group 2 is again the most likely out of all the ACORN groups to

aspire to donate the item to charity, take it to a second hand shop, sell it through a car boot sale or

other offline means; but it is also the group that is most likely to take it to the tip or recycling centre

(i.e. HWRC) or request a collection by the council. This may be a reflection of the fact that

respondents from ACORN group 2 were more likely to consider a range of options for passing on

sofas rather than narrowing their responses to only one or two. ACORN group 1 this time is also likely

to donate the item to friends or family, or to a charity. Across the responses for ACORN group 5, the

most popular disposal route is to have the item collected by the council. For all other ACORN groups,

the most popular disposal route is through a charity collection or outlet.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 59


Percentage of respondents

Figure 7.14 Alternative disposal routes for sofas according to ACORN group

70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

Offline Disposal Route

Acorn 1

Acorn 2

Acorn 3

Acorn 4

Acorn 5

Table 7.6 shows the two most popular alternative disposal routes for each of the priority items. This

is shown in graphical form in Figure 7.15. The routes shown in the table are those that are most likely

to be used by consumers if they choose not to exchange an item online. It can be seen that for

furniture, both home and office, the most popular disposal route is through a charitable collection or

outlet, followed by donation to friends or family. For all electrical items except mobile phones, the

most popular disposal route is the local tip or recycling centre (i.e. HWRC). Again the second most

popular route is donating the item to friends or family, except in the case of washing machines, for

which arranging a council collection is the second most popular route. For all clothing – leather

jackets, cotton shirts and jumpers – the most popular response was to dispose of the item through a

charitable collection or outlet, followed by a second hand shop.

The mobile phone category shows slightly different results from all the other electrical items, in that

the most popular disposal route is to donate the phone to friends or family, very closely followed by

disposing of it through a charitable collection or outlet.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 60


Table 7.6 The two most popular alternative disposal routes for each priority item

Most popular option Second most popular option

Sofa Charitable collection or outlet Donated to friends / family

Dining table Charitable collection or outlet Donated to friends / family

Desk Charitable collection or outlet Donated to friends / family

Office chair Charitable collection or outlet Donated to friends / family

TV Local tip or recycling centre Donated to friends / family

Mobile phone Donated to friends / family Charitable collection or outlet

Computer Local tip or recycling centre Donated to friends / family

Other IT Local tip or recycling centre Donated to friends / family

Other electrical Local tip or recycling centre Donated to friends / family

Washing machine Local tip or recycling centre Collection of large items by council

Leather jacket Charitable collection or outlet Second hand shops

Cotton shirt Charitable collection or outlet Second hand shops

Jumper Charitable collection or outlet Second hand shops

Figure 7.15 shows the different disposal options and the relative popularity of each of the top five

responses for all priority items. For the clothing categories, it can be seen that the significantly most

popular disposal route is through a charity collection or outlet, with over 60% of respondents stating

this route for each priority item. Similarly, this was easily the most popular route for the furniture

categories. Whilst taking items to the tip or recycling centre (HWRC) was the most common response

amongst the electrical items (excluding mobile phones), the graph shows that this was also a fairly

common response for many of the furniture categories. For these larger items, there were also a

reasonable number of respondents who said that they would arrange for a council collection for larger

items – as is the case with washing machines.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 61


% respondents using disposal route

Figure 7.15 Most popular alternative disposal routes for priority items

70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%

Priority item

8.0 Opportunities for Market Development

Collection of

large items by

council

Local tip or

recycling centre

Charitable

collection or

outlet

Second hand

shops

The evidence gathered as part of this research suggests that internet-mediated reuse could be a

cultural and societal response to a number of factors and to see it as a potentially expanding market

is to assume that society can accept reuse as part of a purchased item’s typical life. However, this is a

general reuse issue rather than one specific to online exchange. In terms of the sites included in this

research, eBay will largely look after itself; with a net income of nearly US$2 billion in 2010 and a

significant advertising budget, the company will continue to grow and attract new users every day.

eBay are also the owners of Gumtree and with the recent decline in television advertising costs,

Gumtree has become a regularly advertised website – more so than the parent company.

� As the internet becomes more widely used by all sectors of society, the development of

online exchanges may change to target different sectors and reach populations that are not

currently included. For example, rather than competing with furniture reuse organisations,

these outlets could be encouraged to list their items online. Therefore when their traditional

client base has access to the internet, they will be able to identify and purchase items online

rather than needing to visit the shop. In these instances the websites may need to be

Online Exchange Potential Impact 62


developed to account for third parties purchasing the item (e.g. a housing association on

behalf of its tenant).

� A benefit of internet reuse over other outlets is that there may be greater opportunities to

match items wanted and offered (free or otherwise). An easy-to-use website that provides

accurate descriptions and pictures is likely to facilitate reuse and allow site users to have

more confidence in the quality and usability of the item they are purchasing/ taking.

� Inevitably, the use of online services will increase as more of the UK’s population become

comfortable with using the internet. As internet use increases, it would be appropriate for

local authorities to support online exchanges in the same way that they support offline

methods. This support might be as simple as to link to the site from their own web pages.

� For the purposes of this research, the free exchange sites were more difficult to monitor since

items listed on them were not categorised by type but by listing status. For ease of

monitoring, a more detailed and structured categorisation would make it quicker and simpler

to search for and find different types of items being listed.

� A further opportunity may be found in encouraging charitable organisations to use online

exchange mechanisms; for example, having a shop on eBay or a group based on the

Freegle/Freecycle model. Based on the evidence of this research, providing an online link to

charity shops could encourage both reuse and charitable exchange and have a double

benefit. This does already occur; for example, some furniture reuse organisations will sell

items on their own website or through portals such as Amazon marketplace. In fact, on eBay

sellers can choose to donate a percentage of the sale price to charity, or a charity can sell

items itself. One example is Marie Curie Cancer care; its eBay page states that 100% of the

sale price of any item sold will go to the charity. 14

9.0 Observations and Conclusions

There are two elements to this section. The first concentrates on some of the headline observations

made during this research. They are not all data-based and a number of hypotheses are described

which have arisen from the process of undertaking the research. The second section provides

conclusions about the potential to measure the amount of online exchange to identify the amount of

reuse using this mode of exchange.

9.1 Observations

This section firstly details a number of headline observations made during the monitoring phase of

this research, with specific observations for each website about the amount of activity on each site

and the amount of exchange that was observed.

9.1.1 eBay

Monitoring the number of certain items added to eBay over the course of one week provided a means

of estimating the number of items added to eBay each year. Numbers are high; for example

approximately 1,185,000 used mobile phones, 896,000 cotton shirts and 56,000 washing machines

are listed on the site for sale each year.

The proportion of these items which are actually sold on eBay varies by item. Average sales range

from 82% of mobile phones and 79% of washing machines being sold, down to 31% of cotton shirts

14 http://donations.ebay.co.uk/charity/charity.jsp?NP_ID=11871&searchString=mariecuriecancercareshop#buynp

Online Exchange Potential Impact 63


and 34% of jumpers. The actual number of shirts and jumpers sold is still fairly high, however, as

large numbers of these items are listed in the first place, and a high proportion of products that do

not sell first time are then relisted. The results from the items monitored suggest that highly priced

items sell better on eBay than cheaper ones.

The average final bid also varies by item. Sofas are the ‘highest value’ item of those monitored,

selling for an average price of £110. Mobile phones and washing machines also go for higher prices

(as would be expected), with cotton shirts and jumpers both being much cheaper and selling for close

to £5 on average.

There is limited office furniture on eBay, although the items that are listed seem to sell fairly well.

The numbers of larger items that are sold through eBay, such as furniture, washing machines and

computers, are generally lower than smaller items which can be more easily posted to the buyer. The

larger ‘bulky’ items mostly need to be collected in person, which will dramatically reduce the number

of prospective buyers. This monitoring exercise has shown that mobile phones sold the best on eBay

out of all items monitored. High numbers are listed on the site in the first instance, but a high

proportion of those items are also sold; this could be because mobile phones are highly priced but

also easy to post.

9.1.2 Gumtree

Mobile phones are popular items advertised on Gumtree, as are televisions. Results varied by region,

with some areas being much more active than others. A relatively high number of sofas are also

featured on Gumtree. This could be because items are advertised locally, and so prospective buyers

who are searching the adverts are more likely to be in a position to collect the item, compared to

national sites. Very few clothes are advertised on Gumtree, and office furniture did not feature highly.

9.1.3 Preloved

Preloved activity was found to be lower than on Gumtree, although the setup of the site is very

similar, with items being advertised locally. Altogether, there were just 163 adverts for monitored

items across all five areas. In some cases, searches returned just one or two items in certain

categories, and in fact in Inverness there were only three adverts in total across all priority items.

Mobile phones were once again the most popular items to exchange on Preloved, followed by sofas

and dining tables. This could be because the local nature of the adverts benefits those selling large

items that need to be collected in person by the buyer. Very few adverts were found for office

furniture, and there were also low numbers of adverts for computers and washing machines.

9.1.4 Freegle/Freecycle

From the outset, it was clear that neither of these sites has invested in providing an efficient service

for wide-scale use and as the services grow in popularity, some sort of preliminary classification

similar to eBay would improve the usability of the sites and potentially improve the rate at which

items are exchanges on these sites.

Nonetheless a high proportion of users make accurate use of the system which facilitates effective (if

time-consuming) searching for specific items. The availability of a daily digest of listings further

simplifies searching; however, items can be taken very quickly, introducing an element of luck in

obtaining specific types of items.

Geography also plays a part in the effectiveness of Freegle and Freecycle. The group setup means

that a user has to belong to many groups in order to search an area from which they can collect

items. It can be assumed that all items must either be collected or delivered – using a postal service

would then put a cost on an otherwise free item.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 64


9.1.5 Consumer survey

The survey data was analysed based on those who do and do not use online exchange sites.

However, there was a low response rate for non-users for the majority of questions which means that

we cannot be confident in drawing conclusions from this data.

For the respondents who do use online exchange websites, it can be seen that eBay and Gumtree are

the most recognised and used. Overall there seem to be more items offered online than accepted,

although this does vary depending on the item. ‘Other’ items, small electrical and ‘other IT’ items

were the most offered and accepted items from respondents who use the websites. When not using

online exchange websites, the respondents who do use them said that they would mostly donate

unwanted items to a charity shop, followed by friends and family donations. For the respondents who

do not use online exchange websites, only six people answered the question about how aware they

are of the different websites; therefore there this data could not yield any reliable results.

When asked how they do dispose of unwanted items, the majority of people who do not use online

exchange websites said that they would donate to charity, make use of a local authority collection or

take it to the household waste recycling centre (HWRC). This result clearly suggests that the majority

of respondents are willing to take environmentally positive actions to manage useable but unwanted

items. However in reality a proportion of these items could be unsuitable for reuse and goodwill, i.e.

willingness to reuse, could well be superseded by convenience.

As shown in Section 7.4, there is a clear trend with offline alternatives for item exchange. Clothing

appears to be sent mainly to charitable outlets (which may include second hand shops depending on

the respondent’s perception of the question) whereas electronic goods (WEEE) are more likely to go

to HWRCs. The offline destination of furniture might be more varied, probably due to the sheer bulk

of some of the items. Many shops, particularly the charitable outlets, are reluctant to accept WEEE

due to the stricter regulation on selling electronic goods. These items require testing by qualified

persons (PAT testing) whereas items such as clothing and furniture are much easier to prepare for

resale or distribution.

The question of suitability for reuse is not likely to be answered by the ‘producer/vendor’, but

whoever receives the item. Therefore it is likely that a proportion of items that are offered for reuse

will not be suitable for reuse and will merely take a longer route to disposal, with no benefit being

derived from the initial goodwill of the offer.

9.2 Conclusions

This study set out to identify whether it is possible to measure the amount of goods being exchanged

online and to develop an understanding of the potential for reuse, and therefore the benefits of online

exchange. From the monitoring that has taken place, it is clear that it is possible to measure the

quantities of items that are listed for exchange. However, for most sites it has not been possible to

know for certain whether an exchange has actually taken place or not.

� The research has quantified awareness and use of online exchange both in terms of quantity

and type of items advertised.

� For eBay, it can be clear when an item is sold and it becomes second hand therefore

preventing the item from becoming waste. We can quantify the number of items and

therefore it should be possible to calculate the tonnage of waste prevented as a result. This is

a quantifiable benefit of this online exchange portal.

� It is not clear how long the item continues to be used before becoming waste. The length of

time a second hand item needs to be used in order to qualify as a reused item is a question

beyond the scope of this report.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 65


� It is more difficult to measure exchange that has taken place through websites such as

Freegle. This is because it is currently very difficult to determine with certainty whether an

item has actually been taken or not. Anecdotal evidence from a handful of users would

suggest that most, if not all, items are exchanged; but even if this is true, once again it is not

possible to know how long the item is used before it becomes waste, or re-enters the reuse

cycle.

� With the online monitoring it has sometimes been difficult to obtain data, especially data to

confirm the item has been sold or exchanged. Without this data it is difficult to measure the

amount of goods being exchanged online and to develop an understanding of the benefits of

online exchange. Success in answering the original aims of this study: to measure online

exchange of second hand goods and provide information for an assessment of the benefits of

reuse through this medium, has been greater for some of the websites than others.

Including online exchange as a viable method of facilitating waste prevention could be an important

element of accounting for waste prevention in the UK. To be able to determine how much reuse is

occurring through online services, it would need to be possible to assess more accurately whether an

exchange takes place, and further research or monitoring would be needed to check with accuracy

whether the reuse that had occurred was additional or was displacing reuse that would have occurred

elsewhere (e.g. via a charity shop or reuse organisation). It would be much more straightforward to

achieve this if the sites themselves were set up in a way that facilitated effective monitoring of

specified types of second hand items, and it is hoped that the recommendations for Freegle and

Freecycle may be of some use in designing their sites to enable easy identification and categorisation

of the main types of items that appear on them.

The issues of item quality and the potential for exchanged items to be subsequently reused or resold,

in relation to items changing hands through online exchanges, have not been comprehensively

addressed in this research. In particular, for the free exchange sites Freecycle and Freegle, items

could be exchanged for benevolent reasons and then sold on for financial gain. Collectibles and

furniture are both subject to this sort of activity. The issue of quality could be addressed through

contacting recipients of items through the portals studied and this could potentially shed light on how

long items are kept out of the disposal stream.

The overall volume of items exchanged could be increased with relatively little investment and it is

recommended this should be researched further in collaboration with specific website operators.

Introducing item categories, even at a very broad level (for instance, furniture, electronics, clothing)

could help people find the items that they are looking for. eBay uses these categories to simplify

search for items, although it is also used to aid the casual browser. This research aimed to find out if

it is possible to measure the amount of goods being exchanged online and to develop an

understanding of the benefits of online exchange. This report shows that the volumes of items can be

quantified to some extent, and that it may be possible to extend the data to estimate weights of

materials changing hands in this way. The monitoring required in order to determine the flow of items

must be streamlined if it is to be repeated on a larger scale; and the nuances and variations of how

specific portals are used must be more clearly understood if annual estimates are to be made more

reliable.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 66


Appendix 1: Weight estimates of items

Estimated weights of items exchanged are presented here. These estimates have been kept separate

from the main body of the report, as there is significantly less confidence in the weight estimates in

comparison to estimated numbers of items sold and exchanged, for the reasons described below.

Elsewhere in the report the numbers of items sold and exchanged have been calculated. However it is

problematic to provide corresponding estimates for tonnes of items sold or exchanged with any

confidence, essentially considering the often wide range of weights per item for different

subcategories of the same category. For example the FRN average weight list includes 13 different

entries for televisions, which includes both CRT and flat screen varieties. The different sizes of

televisions, coupled with the different types of television, means that the weight can vary between

4.4 kg and 31.0 kg. The average weight across the range of average weights for the 13 different

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

weight for televisions because the distribution of weights (i.e. the relative numbers of items of lower

and higher weights) is not known, due to lack of knowledge about subcategories of items (in this

example relating to different types of televisions).

Table A1.1 lists the average weights that have been used for the priority items. We have applied the

‘average’ weight to the number of units exchanged for each of the priority items, and the results of

this analysis are presented below. It should be borne in mind that the ‘average’ weights for any of

these items could be misleading, depending on whether an item subcategory has a lower or higher

weight than the average used in the calculation. Therefore this method of applying average weights

may result in a significant under- or over-estimate of the actual weights involved in online exchange;

and it is not possible to say which without more comprehensive analysis of the listings. Indeed, as

designs and consumer preference changes, this may be reflected in the weight of the items

exchanged (for example, items such as mobile phones and televisions are lighter now than in the

past), and so it will be important for future research to apply average weights of items at a

subcategory level, and for these average weights to be reasonably up to date, if reliable weight

estimates are to be produced.

This method of applying average weights per item in order to arrive at a total estimated tonnage can

obscure the true success of exchange sites. Measures of success that are more valid might arguably

be related to the number of items exchanged, awareness of online exchange communities and levels

of usage of their sites.

Table A1.1 Average weight of priority items

Online Exchange Potential Impact 67


Category

Average

Weight (kg)

Sofa 39.50

Dining table 25.00

Office desk 24.33

Office chair 12.00

TV 14.35

Mobile phone 0.50

Computers 6.50

Other IT 14.33

Washing machine 58.67

Leather jacket 1.50

Cotton shirt 0.20

Jumper 0.50

Ebay

Table A1.2 and Figure A1.1 show that sofas, televisions, dining tables and washing machines

contribute more to the tonnage of material exchanged via eBay than other items, despite the fact

that the number of listings and the exchange rate (i.e. the percentage of items that are actually sold

or exchanged) are lower. It is estimated that a total of 4,848,064 priority items are listed on eBay

every year, and the weight of these items sold equates to approximately 15,436 tonnes.

Table A1.2 Estimated listings, exchange rate and tonnage exchanged per annum on eBay

Category

Estimated

annual

listings

Estimated

exchange

rate

Total

tonnage

exchanged

per year

Sofa 222,463 47% 4,130

Dining table 210,418 49% 2,578

Office desk 13,663 49% 163

Office chair 52,449 42% 264

TV 256,724 67% 2,469

Mobile phone 1,011,764 82% 415

Computers 52,787 59% 202

Other IT 286,728 39% 1,603

Washing machine 66,658 79% 3,089

Leather jacket 332,852 49% 245

Cotton shirt 1,107,483 31% 69

Jumper 1,234,077 34% 210

Total for priority items 4,848,064 15,436

Online Exchange Potential Impact 68


Figure A1.1 Total estimated tonnage exchanged per annum on Ebay

Leather jacket,

245

Computers, 202

Mobile phone,

415

Washing

machine, 3,089

Other IT, 1,603

Cotton shirt, 69

TV, 2,469

Jumper, 210

Sofa, 4,130

Dining table,

2,578

Office Desk, 163

Office chair, 264

Online Exchange Potential Impact 69


Preloved

The average number of items listed per week per Preloved group is low, but if the findings of this

study are factored up to account for the fact that there are 70 groups throughout the country, the

estimated number of listings per annum is 116,480, for the priority items included in this study. Using

an exchange rate based on that observed for eBay, the total weight of items exchanged per year has

been estimated as a total of approximately 927.39 tonnes (for all priority items). In common with

findings for eBay, furniture and large electrical result in a higher tonnage exchanged, despite lower

volumes listed and exchanged. Few items of clothing are listed and exchanged on Preloved.

Table A1.3 Estimated listings, exchange rate and tonnage exchanged per annum on Preloved

Category

Average

number of

new listings

per week

Estimated

network

activity per

year

Estimated

annual

tonnage

Estimated

exchange

rate*

Estimated

total

tonnage

exchanged

per year

Sofa 5 18,200 719 47% 338

Dining table 4 14,560 364 49% 178

Office desk 1 3,640 89 49% 43

Office chair 1 3,640 44 42% 18

TV 3 10,920 157 67% 105

Mobile phone 8 29,120 15 82% 12

Computers 1 3,640 24 59% 14

Other IT 2 7,280 104 39% 41

Washing machine 1 3,640 214 79% 169

Leather jacket 3 10,920 16 49% 8

Cotton shirt 2 7,280 1 31% 0

Jumper 1 3,640 2 34% 1

Total for priority

items 116,480 1,748 927

*based on eBay monitoring

Figure A1.2 Total estimated tonnage exchanged per annum on Preloved

Other IT, 41

Computers, 14

Mobile phone,

12

TV, 105

Office chair, 18

Office Desk, 43

Leather jacket,

8

Washing

machine, 169

Dining table,

178

Jumper, 1

Sofa, 338

Online Exchange Potential Impact 70


Gumtree

The average number of listings is higher for Gumtree than for Preloved, although there are fewer

groups with only 46 Gumtree sites throughout the UK (compared with 70 for Preloved). Factoring up

the findings of this study to all Gumtree groups in the UK results in a total estimated weight of items

exchanged of 27,686 tonnes. Once again the larger items contribute significantly to total tonnage,

and users are not listing items of clothing as frequently as they do on eBay.

Table A1.4 Estimated listings, exchange rate and tonnage exchanged per annum on Gumtree

Category

Average

number of

new listings

per week

Estimated

network

activity per

year

Estimated

annual

tonnage

Estimated

exchange

rate*

Estimated

total

tonnage

exchanged

per year

Sofa 191 456,872 18,046 47% 8,482

Dining table 99 236,808 5,920 49% 2,901

Office desk 47 112,424 2,736 49% 1,340

Office chair 20 47,840 574 42% 241

TV 272 650,624 9,338 67% 6,256

Mobile phone 395 944,840 472 82% 387

Computers 115 275,080 1,788 59% 1,055

Other IT 76 181,792 2,606 39% 1,016

Washing machine 54 129,168 7,578 79% 5,987

Leather jacket 8 19,136 29 49% 14

Cotton shirt 35 83,720 17 31% 5

Jumper 4 9,568 5 34% 2

Total for priority items 3,147,872 49,109 27,687

*based on eBay monitoring

Figure A1.3 Total estimated tonnage exchanged per annum on Gumtree

Other IT, 1,016

Computers,

1,055

Mobile phone,

387

Leather

jacket, 14

Washing

machine, 5,987

TV, 6,256

Cotton shirt, 5 Jumper, 2

Sofa, 8,482

Dining

table,

2,901

Office Desk,

1,340

Office chair, 241

Online Exchange Potential Impact 71


Freegle

Whilst the numbers of items listed per month per group are quite low, there is a large number of

groups (269) which means that the estimated number of annual listings is quite high (309,888).

However the exchange rate for Freegle is estimated to be lower than for eBay and other sites, so that

the estimated weight of material exchanged is only 691 tonnes. Freegle is used a lot for exchanging

small electrical appliances. These are not listed below, as small electrical appliances generally are not

classified as priority items for the purposes of this study. Mobile phones are included in the list. It is

interesting to note that the number of small electrical appliances listed is 106,524, resulting in an

estimated weight of items exchanged of 124 tonnes.

Table A1.5 Estimated listings, exchange rate and tonnage exchanged per annum on Freegle

Average

listings

per group

per month

Estimated

annual

tonnage

Estimated

exchange

rate

Estimated

total

tonnage

exchanged

per year

Category

Annual

listings

Sofa 12 38,736 1,530 7.2% 110

Dining table 1 3,228 81 18.2% 15

Desk 9 29,052 707 14.1% 100

Office chair

Large electrical items

(fridge, washing

2 6,456 77 11.4% 9

machine) 23 74,244 3,527 8.5% 300

TV 14 45,192 649 5.8% 38

Mobile phone 6 19,368 10 4.5% 0

Computer

Other IT (printers,

monitors, mice,

10 32,280 210 9.1% 19

consoles, software) 18 58,104 833 12.1% 101

Leather jacket 0 0 0 0.0% 0

Shirt 1 3,228 1 0.0% 0

Jumper 0 0 0 0.0% 0

Total for priority listings

309,888 7,623

692

Online Exchange Potential Impact 72


Figure A1.4 Total estimated tonnage exchanged per annum on Freegle

Other IT, 101

Computer, 19

Mobile Phone, 0

TV, 38

Large electrical

items (fridge,

washing

machine), 300

Sofa, 110

Desk, 100

Summary

The estimated total tonnage of priority items exchanged per annum in the UK for the online exchange

sites included in this study is summarised in the Table A1.6, with the same data detailed in Figure

A1.5.

It is worth noting that the weight of items exchanged on the local sites (e.g. Gumtree) is quite high,

relative to use. Whilst eBay has by far the highest number of items listed, the items that are popular,

both in terms of listings and subsequent exchanges, are generally small in size and weight and more

likely to be posted to the buyer, whereas the sites with geographically specific groups are more likely

to match buyers and sellers who can collect or deliver large items within their local area.

Table A1.6 Estimated total weight exchanged per year (tonnes)

Dining table, 15

Office Chair , 9

Category Ebay Preloved Gumtree Freegle Total

Sofa 4,130 338 8,482 110 13,060

Dining table 2,578 178 2,901 15 5,672

Office desk 163 43 1,340 100 1,647

Office chair 264 18 241 9 533

TV 2,469 105 6,256 38 8,868

Mobile phone 415 12 387 0 815

Computers 202 14 1,055 19 1,290

Other IT 1,603 41 1,016 101 2,761

Washing machine 3,089 169 5,987 300 9,544

Leather jacket 245 8 14 0 267

Cotton shirt 69 0 5 0 74

Jumper 210 1 2 0 212

Total for priority

items 15,436 927 27,687 692 44,742

Online Exchange Potential Impact 73


Figure A1.5 Estimated total tonnage exchanged per year

Tonnes

9,000

8,000

7,000

6,000

5,000

4,000

3,000

2,000

1,000

0

Table A1.7 shows the difference between the number of items listed and the estimated tonnage

exchanged per annum in the UK. This takes account of the exchange rate, i.e. the percentage of

items that are actually sold or exchanged.

Ebay

Preloved

Gumtree

Freegle

Online Exchange Potential Impact 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

Category

No. items

listed per

year

Ebay Preloved Gumtree Freegle Total

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

No.

items

listed

per

year

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

No. items

listed per

year

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

No.

items

listed

per

year

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

No. items

listed per

year

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

Sofa 222,463 4,130 18,200 338 456,872 8,482 38,736 110 736,271 13,060

Dining table 210,418 2,578 14,560 178 236,808 2,901 3,228 15 465,014 5,672

Office desk 13,663 163 3,640 43 112,424 1,340 29,052 100 158,779 1,647

Office chair 52,449 264 3,640 18 47,840 241 6,456 9 110,385 533

TV 256,724 2,469 10,920 105 650,624 6,256 45,192 38 963,460 8,868

Mobile phone 1,011,764 415 29,120 12 944,840 387 19,368 0 2,005,092 815

Computers 52,787 202 3,640 14 275,080 1,055 32,280 19 363,787 1,290

Other IT 286,728 1,603 7,280 41 181,792 1,016 58,104 101 533,904 2,761

Washing machine 66,658 3,089 3,640 169 129,168 5,987 74,244 300 273,710 9,544

Leather jacket 332,852 245 10,920 8 19,136 14 0 0 362,908 267

Cotton shirt 1,107,483 69 7,280 0 83,720 5 3,228 0 1,201,711 74

Jumper 1,234,077 210 3,640 1 9,568 2 0 0 1,247,285 212

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

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.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 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

Category

No. items

listed per

year

Ebay Preloved Gumtree Freegle Total

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

No. items

listed per

year

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

No. items

listed per

year

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

No. items

listed per

year

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

No. items

listed per

year

Online Exchange Potential Impact 76

Tonnage

exchanged

per year

Sofa 5% 27% 16% 36% 15% 31% 13% 16% 9% 29%

Dining table 4% 17% 13% 19% 8% 10% 1% 2% 6% 13%

Office desk 0% 1% 3% 5% 4% 5% 9% 14% 2% 4%

Office chair 1% 2% 3% 2% 2% 1% 2% 1% 1% 1%

TV 5% 16% 9% 11% 21% 23% 15% 5% 11% 20%

Mobile phone 21% 3% 25% 1% 30% 1% 6% 0% 24% 2%

Computers 1% 1% 3% 2% 9% 4% 10% 3% 4% 3%

Other IT 6% 10% 6% 4% 6% 4% 19% 15% 6% 6%

Washing machine 1% 20% 3% 18% 4% 22% 24% 43% 3% 21%

Leather jacket 7% 2% 9% 1% 1% 0% 0% 0% 4% 1%

Cotton shirt 23% 0% 6% 0% 3% 0% 1% 0% 14% 0%

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

that an estimated 44,741 tonnes of items are reused through these online exchanges per year in the UK,

taking into account all the priority items included in this study. Whilst the volume of furniture and white

goods exchanged is lower than for other goods, Figure A1.6 shows that these types of items contribute

significantly to the overall weight of material exchanged.

Figure A1.6 Combined estimated total tonnage exchanged per year

Tonnes

14,000

12,000

10,000

8,000

6,000

4,000

2,000

0

Online Exchange Potential Impact 77


Appendix 2: Customer Survey

Questionnaire

Reuse – how using the internet to exchange items can help reduce waste and improve our

environment

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a government body

dedicated to improving resource use throughout the UK, is conducting research

into the environmental benefits of online exchanges.

This short questionnaire is designed to increase understanding of how online

exchange sites, such as eBay, Freecycle, Freegle, GumTree and Preloved, are

used. Exchanging items online can have important environmental

benefits by diverting reusable items away from landfill, and the aim of this

research is to understand the extent of these benefits.

The questionnaire should only take a couple of minutes to complete and

return in the prepaid response envelope. Alternatively, you can fill the

questionnaire out online by typing the following link into your internet browser:

www.surveymonkey.co.uk/s/InternetBasedReuse

The questionnaire requires you to enter a name and your postcode. However,

these details will only be used for the purposes of this of research. Your details will

not be published and will not be made available to any third parties. You will not

be contacted and any answers that you give will remain anonymous.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to help with this important piece of

research; your time is much appreciated. So much so that every respondent will

be entered into a free prize draw with the chance to win high street vouchers

worth up to £50.

Thank you and good luck!

Name

Post Code

1. Do you have access to an internet connection?

Yes No

If No, please go to question 6

2. The following section relates to your awareness and use of online exchange sites. Please mark

(�) to all that apply. Regular user refers to more than once per week.

Regular Occasional Aware of Not

user user (but have aware of

not used)

eBay

Freecycle

Freegle

GumTree

Preloved

Other, please

specify:aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

If you have not used any exchange websites, please go to question 4 and identify the main reasons

for this.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 78


3. If you have used online exchange sites, what have you used them for?

Accepting Items

only

Accepting items

with some items

offered

Offering items and

accepting some

items

Offering items only

Requesting items

eBay

Freecycle

Freegle

GumTree

Preloved

Other sites, please specify

aaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaa

4. Please look at the list of potential reasons for either using or not using online exchange sites.

So that we can identify positive reasons from negative ones, please mark your positive reasons with a

tick (�) and negative reasons with a cross (x). If a reason does not apply, it should be left blank.

Ease of use

Personal security

Environmental benevolence

Bargain hunting

Difficult to understand

Concerned about poor item

quality

Not used

eBay

Freecycle

Freegle

GumTree

Preloved

Other, please

specify

aaaaaaa aaaaaaa

5. This question refers to types of items that you may have offered or accepted online. Which of

the following items have you offered, accepted or would consider exchanging online?

Offered

Accepted

Would

Consider

Sofa Leather jacket

Dining table Cotton shirt

Desk Jumper

Office chair Mobile phone

TV Computer

Small electrical items

(toaster, food processor,

hairdryer)

Large electrical items

(fridge, washing

machine)

Other IT (printers,

monitors, mice,

consoles, software)

Other items, please specify aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Offered

Accepted

Would

Consider

Online Exchange Potential Impact 79


6. What offline alternatives (if any) would you use to pass on or get rid of each type of item, if

you decided not/were not able to do this online?

Sofa

Dining table

Desk

Office chair

TV

Mobile phone

Computer

Other IT

Other electrical e.g.

toaster, hairdryer

Washing machine

Leather jacket

Cotton shirt

Jumper

Other, please specify

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Other, please specify

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Keep them

Refuse collection

Collection of large

items by council

Local tip or recycling

centre

Charitable collection

or outlet

Second hand shops

Car boot sales

Sold offline

Donated to

friends/family

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. Your contribution is very valuable to us.

Online Exchange Potential Impact 80


www.wrap.org.uk/onlineexchange

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