Usable furniture, clothes and utilities among goods recycled
During finals week at Oregon State University, Bethani Norton drives around neighborhoods near campus, looking for discarded bookshelves, couches and desks to throw in the back of her pickup.
"I just pick things up off the side of the street," she said.
Norton works as the delivery coordinator and warehouse manager for the Benton Furniture Share, and this is the nonprofit group's busiest time of the year. There are plenty of donations - as well as items dumped by the curb - for a simple reason: Oregon State University has nearly 20,000 students, and when most of them are done with spring term finals, they scram, leaving behind usable furniture - and a deluge of refuse.
Carol Dion, general manager of Allied Waste of Corvallis, said move-out week is the fourth-most-trash-producing event of the year, behind Christmas, Thanksgiving and the start of the school year.
"We are on campus a lot, making sure all the containers at the dorms and living facilities are empty." Dion said apartment complexes also pay for extra trash bins.
Steve Omernik, a property manager for Sterling Management Group, said curbside couches and other large items that can't be donated sometimes require an extra garbage pickup, and the cost almost always is absorbed by landlords.
"It's impossible to pin it down to a single student," he said.
Omernik said the upswing in garbage continues until right before July 1, a key final "move-out-by" date for departing students who rent houses by the month.
OSU tries to cut down on its trash by having extra recycling bins handy this week, as well as containers where clothing, furniture and appliances can be dropped off for donation. Most donated items end up at Goodwill and Vina Moses, although some furniture is sold at the OSUsed Day Store as university surplus property.
Much more could be done, however, said Pete Lepre, OSU recycling manager. He said that about half of the trash this week was recyclable. "It's just sad … We're trying to put the word out there that we recycle at OSU."
The Benton Furniture Share has tried to work with OSU to spread the word about its efforts.
Amanda Ruhl, an Oregon State University senior, heard about the furniture share from a roommate on Thursday, the day before she was going to move to Portland.
"I had sold a lot of my stuff on Craigslist, and this is one thing I haven't sold," she said, gesturing to a dining table and chairs.
Moments later, Norton and furniture share worker Jeana Taylor loaded the items into the back of a moving truck.
Ruhl said second-hand stores, even if they're nonprofits, can be too expensive for some people. "I'd rather this go to someone for free."
Kyle Odegard covers Oregon State University. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 758-9523.