Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By
  • County of Strathcona Environmental Operations
  • Local businesses and community organizations

The Exchange included over 500 participants and diverted 12 tons of material from the waste stream in 1996.

The Great Strathcona Exchange

Strathcona County organizes an annual one-day waste exchange. Staffed largely by volunteers, this free event enables people to return serviceable appliances, furniture, or other large household items to useful service by making them available for others to reuse.


Strathcona County, Alberta, includes both rural and suburban residential communities and has a population of 60,000.

The goal of the program, which started in 1992, was to make it easy for people to divert from landfill large items that were still useable, and to reduce the need to collect heavy, awkward, expensive items at curbside.

Delivering the Program

The Great Strathcona Exchange was held in late spring to coincide with Environment Week- an event which raised awareness about conservation issues. Designed to make it convenient for people to donate, rather than throw out, unwanted goods, the exchange accepted large, reusable items such as appliances, furniture, building materials, lawnmowers, and bikes. There was no charge for leaving or picking up items.

Local newspaper ads, posters, and notes in utility bills publicized the event. It was also advertised during a twice-annual curbside pick-up of large items, at which time people were asked to save reusable items for the upcoming exchange.

The event was held at an outdoor lot. Vehicles transporting items were directed to designated drop-off areas. Signage was used to direct a "right-hand in," and "right-hand out" traffic pattern, and other signs directed vehicles to appropriate drop-off points for small, medium, and large-sized items. Volunteers helped staff the event and were provided with forklifts and refrigerator dollies to help unload and load items.

Volunteers also helped to orient visitors and hand out tags with which people could claim items. Individuals were responsible for transporting claimed goods by the end of the day from designated collection areas.

Problems were experienced when people claimed items but did not collect them. Consequently options were being considered for future exchanges, including: charging a nominal fee for tags; limiting the number of tags per individual or vehicle; and using coloured tags, coded for expiry times.

Financing the Program

Costs, which were minimal, included producing posters, placing ads in local newspapers and generating messages on water, sewer and garbage utility bills. The site was donated. Organizing and staffing were done largely by volunteers.


Approximately 530 vehicles entered the site to exchange materials, and approximately 12 tons of material were diverted from the waste stream.


Bruce Thompson
Environmental Operations
Solid Waste Operations Branch
Strathcona County
2001 Sherwood Drive
Sherwood Park, Alberta
T8A 3W7
(780) 417-7131


Last update: July 2004

This case study was originally published in 1998 in "Tools of Change: Proven Methods for Promoting Environmental Citizenship" by Jay Kassirer and Doug McKenzie-Mohr (Published by Canada's National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy)


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