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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 27, 2009

Furniture left behind by students last spring found new homes, thanks to the efforts of ISU staff and students. Above, residence hall staff (from left) Sheri Anderson, Rich Garrey and Sharon Tolle and former staff member Mike Rich do some lifting. Contributed photo.

Residence program recycles abandoned furniture, food and clothes

by Diana Pounds

If you've ever tried to empty a residence hall room into a car, you understand the problem. And you're probably familiar with the usual solution -- the dumpster at the end of the parking lot.

Pete Englin, director of the residence department, is all too familiar with the problem. Every spring, dumpsters around the residence halls blossom with all manner of stuff as thousands of students hurriedly pack belongings and head home. Some of that stuff belongs in the dumpster. Much of it doesn't.

Last spring, residence and central stores staff joined forces with students to recycle some of the food, clothes and furniture that students pitch when they move out of the residence halls.

Drop-off sites for unopened, nonperishable food were set up in the halls. Five trucks constituted the drop-off sites for other items. The trucks were staffed by central stores employees and parked in lots near residence halls. Staff hauled the collected items to local charities.

It was a learning year for the fledgling recycling program. Englin said the food recycling program was a great success, but fewer students recycled personal belongings. And organizers think they know why -- the drop-off trucks were too far away.

This spring, all drop-off points will be located right inside the residence halls and university apartments, from April 23 through May 11. Students are encouraged to drop off foods and "gently used" items, Englin said. These might include such items as tennis shoes, fans, microwave ovens, recliners, comforters and futons, he added.

Residence and central stores staff will collect and transport the donations. Food will go to the Bethesda Community and MICA food pantries. Other items will be donated to the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries.

Englin expects residence recycling to grow and "become more ingrained every year." He points to the Frederiksen Court community, where residents have long been active in environmental activities and have developed a culture of recycling.

"This is a new responsibility both for department of residence and central stores staff," Englin said. "But it's during a time of year when we're able to reallocate time to make it happen. We have the resources to do this. And, it's clearly the right thing to do -- to keep these items from going to the landfill."

Live Green!

More information on Iowa State's "Live Green!" initiative is online.


"This is a new responsibility both for department of residence and central stores staff. But it's during a time of year when we're able to reallocate time to make it happen."

Pete Englin