Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts
by Jeri Weiss
After cataloguing every pen and binder in my son’s school supply pile, we’re still left with a long list of things to buy before he heads back to college. Could it be true that none of last year’s binders could be used again? Didn’t we just buy him a fan for his room last year? What happened to the extensions cords and that plastic bin for his extra school supplies?
Last week I saw how college students at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) are changing how we can think about back-to-school shopping. A few years ago, a group of UNH students were appalled at the amount of furniture, clothing, and useful stuff being tossed out at the end of the school year. They learned four times as much trash got picked up in May as in other months throughout the year. They realized lots of stuff tossed out was in good condition. And they saw thousands of items that could be cleaned and re-sold in the fall to a new crop of students.
The UNH students raised $9,000 and developed a plan to collect unwanted items in the spring and store them. Student volunteers helped clean and organize items before the Trash 2 Treasure yard sale in fall. The first year the sale was in a tent and raised $12,000. The next year they needed a larger space and made $20,000. This year, the third Trash 2 Treasure sale was so big it was moved to the UNH Hockey Arena.
According to UNH, the sale diverted 45 tons of waste last year, bringing the total amount diverted over three years to 110 tons. This has saved UNH about $10,000 in disposal fees. The total raised over the three years was $54,000. Through the sale, parents and students saved about $216,000 at the sale.
This is Reuse at its finest.
The students who started the Trash 2 Treasure sale have expanded. They have gotten themselves a board of directors and advisors. They call themselves the Post-Landfill Action Network and hope to support other colleges and universities. Schools that don’t have similar programs can get funding and resources to start one. And the network will support schools that already have move-out programs to help them improve.
It’s great to see students taking action, and to watch as they work to help other colleges and universities reduce their waste. Maybe next year my son will buy some gently used binders and plastic bins at his own school’s yard sale rather than buying new supplies he won’t need in a year.
Learn more about Post-Landfill Action Network: www.postlandfill.org.
About the author: Jeri Weiss works in EPA’s Boston office, where she is one of the region’s experts on recycling and waste management issues.