If it ain’t broke… thrift it!
UBReUSE promotes recycling on campus
Over the last two years, students have prevented more than five tons of material from being dumped into landfills.
UBReUSE, a student-run move-out program within the Office of Sustainability, collects and refurbishes unwanted appliances, furniture and clothing at the end of each semester.
The program’s goal is to save useable items from going to landfills as well as providing students with an alternative to buying new items at the beginning of each semester.
The initiative, started in 2016, facilitates collections at the six Ellicott Complex dorms and Greiner Hall during the move-out period in May. Collection bins are located outside the dorms and elevators on the first floor of each complex.
Furniture and appliances are the most desirable donations as they tend to cost students the most money. Clothing is appreciated, but due to large volumes, most of it ends up being donated to thrift stores.
All items in fair condition are stored in a flatbed trailer in the Spaulding parking lot throughout the summer. Student volunteers clean and repair donated items and host a yard sale during welcome-back weekend. Anything unrepairable is recycled and unsold items are donated to local thrift stores.
Kenneth Kern, associate director for Campus Living Sustainability said the biggest reason students should consider recycling is to keep usable items out of landfills.
“We used to just fill up dumpsters with appliances and we’ve cut our dumpsters in half since starting this. We want to get rid of the rest because they don’t get used anymore,” Kern said. “We’re planting the seeds of sustainability. If we can start getting people in the mindset of recycling now, when they leave our campus and go out into the world, they continue these habits. That’s our main goal.”
The sale targets freshman students who don’t know what they need to buy for their dorm rooms. After moving in, one of the first things many students do is go to Target or Walmart. Kern wants to save students money while helping the environment.
“Parents are amazed when we sell them a $100 mini fridge for $10,” Kern said. “We encourage people to skip the extra trip to the department store. Why buy another hunk of plastic if you can recycle a perfectly working one?”
For the students who manage UBReUSE, educating students about the benefits of recycling is at the heart of their mission. Some students have a negative stigma about thrifting or buying second hand, and ReUSE hopes to change that.
Kayleigh Hamernik, a junior environmental studies major, is one of the program’s founding members. After seeing countless fans, mini-fridges and other perfectly functional dorm items thrown out at the end of the semester, she and her friends took it upon themselves to do something about it.
Other schools’ waste reduction and recycling programs inspired Hamernik to take action on campus. UBReUSE made UB a partner campus with the Post-Landfill Action Network, an organization promoting zero waste on college campuses, which jumpstarted the program.
“We identified that there’s a problem and saw that other schools are reducing their waste. We thought UB could really benefit from having this program,” Hamernik said. “RIT fills five trailers every summer, right now we can only afford one trailer, but it’s a start.”
Hamernik, now co-director of the program, said UBReUSE isn’t about the money. All money earned from their yard sale helps grow the program and fund their collection bins and trailers. She hopes to expand the program to more dorms on North and eventually South Campus.
“We want to expand, but it’s really hard when we have students across three campuses. We haven’t even made it to Governor’s yet, but in the future I’d love to see collections on South Campus and in the University Heights,” Hamernik said. “Before we worry about poundage or how much money we raise at our sale, it’s about getting people aware and involved in recycling.”
In addition to expanding its collection locations, the initiative is trying to create a network of thrift stores for anything left over after the sale.
Brandon Munson, a junior environmental studies major, is the other co-director of the program. For him, promoting sustainability is a life mission which he hopes to impress on the university.
“We’re just a group of friends who really care about trash,” Munson said. “Throwing a perfectly good item in the trash really pains me. Students should know that there’s other alternatives than throwing something in the dump.”
Munson and Hamernik said sorting through donations is their favorite part of the job. They’ve found everything from high-end clothing to illegal paraphernalia and even a brand new escape ladder.
Hamernik said being involved with the program is a source of joy. Educating and connecting with other students makes the long hours involved with collecting and sorting items worth it.
“The reason why I do this is because I love getting people involved individually in terms of environmental sustainability. People think it’s an inconvenient thing, but being sustainable can be convenient and beneficial,” Hamernik said. “It’s a cyclical pattern, instead of linear means of consumption. Stuff doesn’t just leave your hands and go to the landfill. It’ll be in use.”
This year’s collections will begin on May 14.