Students divert 12,000 kg of residence leftovers from landfill sites

Each year, the annual spring residence move-out period is characterized by a few common traits: sunny skies, cheerful students and a lot of perfectly good stuff left behind in rooms and common areas. Over the past two years, a new program at York University has been working to reduce the waste generated during residence move-out by encouraging students to swap unwanted items or donate them to charity.

For the second year running, FreeStuff tables were set up in each of the undergraduate residences during April and early May, where students were able to place their unwanted clothes, books and household items for others to take. At the end of FreeStuffTablesthe move-out period, all remaining items were donated to the Oasis Clothing Bank. This year’s efforts resulted in more than 12,000 kg of stuff collected – more than a 150 per cent increase over the year before.

Bins overflow on the FreeStuff table at Founders College, a sign the initiative is working

“This year we’ve more than doubled our total collected from 2012,” said Meagan Heath, waste management supervisor in Campus Services & Business Operations (CSBO). “This means that we’re keeping a lot of perfectly good items from ending up in a landfill.” Heath also noted that used batteries were collected in battery bins and non-perishable food was collected for donation to the York Federation of Students Food Bank.

The Oasis Addiction Recovery Society, a non-profit agency that helps people recovering from substance abuse problems, has been operating large, outdoor donation bins on York’s Keele campus for several years. The FreeStuff program builds on this by making it easier for students to swap and donate items during move-out through smaller bins in each of the undergraduate residences.

“The response to this program from the students has been excellent,” said Monica Pegg, manager of building operations with housing services, also part of CSBO. “The move-out period is a very busy time that can also generate a lot of waste in the residences, so it’s nice to see students involved in reducing waste while at the same time helping out a very worthwhile charity.”

And although the FreeStuff initiative only takes place during the spring move-out period, York recently launched reYUse, an online site that allows community members to swap items year-round. The site is free to use and it just takes a second to sign up through your Passport York account.

For more information on this and other sustainability programs at York, visit the ZeroWaste page or the Sustainability website.