Who would abandon their homes each May, dump books, chairs, sofas, lamps, rugs and other miscellany into Dumpster bins and never look back (at least not for three months)?
Yeah. College students.
Enough stuff is tossed at academic year's end at Youngstown State University to fill three big roll-off bins and two small ones. Picture the trailer on an 18-wheeler truck filled to the top, and you get an idea of the waste.
It's enough to make even a even a casual recycler cringe. You can't imagine what it does to Jim Petuch, YSU recycling program manager. Petuch is a card-carrying Sierra Club and Greenpeace member who has managed to get his own family's garbage output down to an amount so piddling it costs him just $60 a year to have BFI remove it. A year. $60.
He also brags of his department's accomplishments with hard-to-ignore imagery.
This is Petuch's description of YSU's paper recycling program: "We collected 175 tons of [recyclable paper] at YSU last year. We figured out that if you stacked it, it would extend 4,920 feet high, almost a mile. In just one year!"
You can just about feel the itch a truck full of recyclables headed to the landfill would give Petuch.
"It's a disgrace! Clothing, shoes, books, towels, sofas, throw rugs, computers, printers -- some working, some not -- but all reusable, TVs," Petuch counted off. "It always upset me that we couldn't do something."
I can relate to his frustration. Three years ago, my husband and I rode our bikes past the trash bin at the now-defunct Home Place. A floor lamp was in the enclosure, so we stopped to look. Inside we found four blankets still in their zippered plastic bags, a Teflon cooling rack in perfect condition, a lovely desk lamp, and a patio umbrella (its stand the only thing missing). I was shocked. Shouldn't they have donated the stuff to some charity?
A lady by the name of Lisa Heller had a similar experience. (Bear with me now -- this really does have to do with Jim Petuch, YSU, recycling, and you.)
Heller was a student at Syracuse University. She lost a ring given to her by her grandmother, and checked the dormitory trash bin as a last resort. She didn't find the ring, but she did find clothing, furniture and enough canned food to feed "a family of four for a week." She also found a box of rare stamps, one of which was worth $400. She kept some items for herself and took the rest to Goodwill.
Eventually, Heller got her campus Sierra Club to launch an official redemption drive, after which they sold the recyclables and kept the proceeds. A year later, the amount of end-of-year "garbage" heading unnecessarily to the landfills had decreased by about half. Heller then got official nonprofit status for her Dump and Run group and took it on the road.
This year, Petuch met Heller, and the results may be impressive.
All YSU dormitory discards will now be sold instead of being dumped into roll-away bins at semester's end. Dump and Run will assist with a large community "garage sale," which should net some money for local charities, and at least as importantly to Petuch, keep the landfill from getting a donation.
"We've put up posters to get volunteers and encourage students to recycle their things," Petuch said. "We'll have boxes out in each dorm. We'll bag it, box it, sort it and put it in a truck until the sale." The goods will be stored in the community while awaiting the sale -- the location of which is still to be established.
"Our goal is simple," he said. "Keep 100 cubic yards of stuff out of the landfill."
Petuch is busy hunting volunteers for the move-out from May 9 through 11 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and for the eventual sale of the students' throw-aways. If you're interested, call (330) 742-2294.