In a couple of weeks, students will be flooding into our nation’s colleges, filling dorms and apartments with temporary furniture and personal items that get the honorary decorating title; “Early College Style”.
Fear not! Last year’s students left or threw out their defining decor and a cool new organization reclaimed it all and got it ready for a new batch of needy students.
Started by University of New Hampshire student, Alex Freid, Trash2Treasure collects usable dumpster-bound items during move out in May, puts it in storage over the summer and sells it back to the students the next fall at a yard sale. The money they make from the move-in sale cycles back into the program, allowing them to run it again the next year.
Spurred by the success of Trash2Treasure’s, Alex founded a national nonprofit called the Post-Landfill Action Network, or PLAN. “When the only solution is a dumpster, everything looks like trash” is the slogan that inspired him to create change.
PLAN’s goal is to encourage students all over the country to set up programs that diminish waste on campus. But, the more important goal is to set up a national network of student-led zero waste movements. That way, no individual school has to reinvent the wheel. PLAN is currently raising money for an online guide to make it easier for every campus that wants to clean up their act.
Another very active organization is Planet Aid, especially when textiles are concerned. They have recognizable bright yellow bins that can be hosted, free of charge, in addition to recycling programs and clothing drives to keep textiles out of landfills.
They claim the clothes collected in their bins are repurposed into something new, or sold to developing countries with the proceeds going towards development projects like Teacher Training, Child Aid, and Farmers’ Clubs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Yet, they are on Charity Watch’s list of organizations that do not do what they say they are doing. Planet Aid made over $42 million in 2013 from selling their items. With such a ready market of buyers willing to pay large sums of money for used clothing, shoes, and textiles like the ones Planet Aid collects, it can’t assert that items worth millions and millions of dollars would end up in a landfill. However! 11 million tons of textiles are dumped in landfills every year and that number is growing.
http://www.planetaid.org/blog/curbing-the-college-waste-problem and https://www.charitywatch.org/charitywatch-articles/planet-aid-39-s-34-recycling-34-program-debunked-/88
Then there are the chemical, biological, medical, universal, and radioactive wastes generated in a variety of clinical, research, service, maintenance, and cleaning operations throughout our colleges. These waste materials must be properly managed by staff, students and professors prior to collection and/or disposal.
Then there are the dyes, glazes, pigments, sharps, toners, papers, sculpting materials and canvases used in art schools.
Then the food, paper, metal, plastic and all of those single serving containers in the cafeteria and vending machines.
Add in the batteries and electronics.
In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation Bureau of Waste Reduction & Recycling puts out a Resource Book with information and ideas on developing college waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, buying recycled products and packaging programs. http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8801.html
Colleges all have departments of solid waste management and procurement offices that can be trained to reach zero waste on their campus. Directives concerning zero waste programs should come out of the President’s Office. When upper management is behind the program others will participate. Students, faculty, custodial staff, office staff… everyone can be inspired to join the effort!
Pepperdine University leads the list of colleges closest to zero waste. Only 22% of the waste produced at this school ever makes it to a landfill. The other 78% is recycled, an amazing diversion rate. Computers, monitors, printers, and cell phones can be donated through the IT center Tech Central or recycled at a number of locations on campus. Green waste, like tree and brush trimmings, are composted and reused for fertilizer and pathways. Food waste is also cut down by composting and by a meal system involving points, not buffet-style meals, so students aren’t tempted to be wasteful. Even construction materials are recycled after building projects conclude, at the high rate of 80%. http://www.thebestcolleges.org/11-college-recycling-programs-that-put-all-others-to-shame/
If you google average college student waste you will get a surprising number of participating college programs all over the country coming up with some very creative ways to reduce waste and improve students’ waste awareness.
Then there are the outrageous dorm rooms that make college so fun! http://www.buzzfeed.com/cindyc22/20-dorm-rooms-you-wish-were-yours-d9x3#.lfbWxNl7j6
Have a blast! Learn a lot! Become aware of your annual 640 pounds of student garbage! And recycle all that creativity!