Free stuff: Students in undergraduate residences divert 2,000 kilos of ‘stuff’ from landfill

Free Stuff image for YFile homepage
Free Stuff image for YFile homepage

During the course of the academic year, students tend to accumulate a fair amount of stuff, only to realize that all of it might not fit into the car at move-out time.

For many years, this has meant a lot of stuff left behind in residences – clothing, books, pots and pans, dishes – most of which ended up either in the lost and found, or worse, in the garbage. But for the past four years, the FreeStuff 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.

Bags of clothing collected from the FreeStuff tables in  Pond Residence
Above: Bags of clothing collected from the FreeStuff tables in the Pond Residence on the Keele campus

FreeStuff tables were set up in each of the undergraduate residences during April and early May, and this year also saw a pilot initiative in one of the graduate student residences. Students were able to place their unwanted clothes, books and household items for others to take, and at the end of the move-out period, all remaining items were donated to the Oasis Clothing Bank. This year’s efforts resulted in more than 2,000 kilograms of stuff collected, which is equivalent to the weight of two small cars.

A FreeStuff table in Tatham Hall residence
Above: A FreeStuff table in Tatham Hall residence

“The response to this program from the students has been amazing,” said Meagan Heath, waste management supervisor with the Grounds, Fleet & Waste Management Department in Campus Services & Business Operations (CSBO). “It’s great to see students keeping a lot of perfectly good items out of the waste stream, while at the same time helping out a very worthwhile charity.”

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.

And although the FreeStuff initiative only takes place during the spring move-out period, York also has an online site that allows community members to swap items year-round. The reYUse 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 CSBO’s ZeroWaste webpage or the Sustainability website.