Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Trashed: Much left behind at colleges

Time to pack up the car and head home for summer. But wait. What about all that s**t that just somehow grew in your closet/room/apartment. You'll need to rent an 18-wheeler to get it all home. You can't just leave it - or can you?...
DAVIDSON, N.C. --With 1,700 students, Davidson College may be small. But you'd never know it when you see the stuff students leave behind at the end of year.

In a large room at a fraternity house, stacks of clothing, furniture, lamps and electronics were already piling up days ahead of last Sunday's graduation. Mixed in were odds and ends that could only wind up together in a college trash pile: a pair of giant Homer Simpson slippers; a collection of Pokemon cards; a batch of fashion disaster dresses you can only hope were costumes from a campus theme party called the Five Dollar Prom.
("Five Dollar Prom", eh? Now THAT would be an interesting party theme.)
But recently, much of the flotsam and jetsam of Davidson's spring has at least avoided the Dumpster. Last year, students collected enough goods to fill the frat house about 10 times over - twice as much as the year before - and turned the material over to local charities.
Davidson isn't the only college trying to put its student left-behinds to better use. Next Saturday, up to 10,000 people are expected to descend on Penn State's Beaver Stadium to pick their way through 62 tons of student detritus at the annual "Trash to Treasure" sale, which has raised more than $200,000 for the United Way. Boston College collects up to 100,000 items annually for dozens of community groups. In the 15 years since its program started, the University of Michigan has channeled 123 tons of "gently used" student gear back to the community.
"There's a growing sense of the cost," said Lisa Heller Boragine, who started an organization called Dump & Run that helps recycling and resale programs at about a dozen colleges. Nor do schools like having trash pile up during prime parental visiting time.
Boragine, who started a resale program at the University of Richmond when she was teaching there, said she can tell the difference between a school with a $20,000 price tag and a $40,000 one just by looking at what gets left behind.

"Instead of the dollar-store scissors, you'd probably find the $7 ergonomically correct scissors," she said. Rather than a hand-me-down TV that no longer works, there is a year-old one that is too heavy to ship.

Mostly, however, the left-behind items are the predictable, timeless staples of college life: casual clothes, low-grade furniture, countless unopened Ramen noodles. Penn State's sale features about 4,000 carpets, along with stacks of sweaters and T-shirts running down a row 100 feet long and 3 feet wide.
There is probably a partnership opportunity here for a chapter that wants to be more friendly to the environment. Better to reuse or recycle that to end up in a landfill.

www.centredaily.com | 05/21/2007 | Trashed: Much left behind at colleges
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