Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Recycling at the End of the Academic Year

College students leave good stuff behind at the end of the year, and much of it ends up in landfills. My office chair is from one of the undergraduate house dumpsters at Harvard from 1998 when my brother graduated. I also took a computer printer right from the trash.

For my own Wes graduation, I do remember my poor grandparents struggling to get out of the elevator in our university-owned dorm because of the amount of trash coming out of the nearby trash chute. Now that's a way to impress your grandparents with the 100K education.

The amount of excess at universities at the end of the year seems like a classic example of poor planning (I could blame the less than final form of the frontal lobe of the twenty-two-year old brain) combined with middle class (or upper class) excess.

In Trashed: Much left behind at colleges, I learned how Davidson College students collect year end materials for local charities rather than the dumpsters. Other colleges are named as well. Penn State has raised $200,000 with a sale of the materials left behind.

On a purely practical level, it seems to me that the problem is providing enough space to store everything left behind until it is given to charity. That's got to be a challenge.