Ramped-up “Reuse2Reduce” program leads to best-ever waste reduction

zero-waste-logo-imageAs students depart from campus during the last week of each spring semester, the process of cleaning out residence halls invariably includes the disposal of many unneeded household goods and appliances.

This year, SUNY New Paltz expanded its efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle these objects, as Facilities Operations staff teamed up with the New Paltz Recycling Center, the student Recycling Club and a number of regional charities to divert usable food, clothing, furniture and electronics from dumpsters destined for landfills, and redistribute them to people and organizations in need.

“I am very much impressed by the effort that our students, campus staff and community members put forth to make this year’s drive a great success,” said John Shupe, assistant vice president for Facilities Management.

The campaign to salvage items during the student move-out period, known as the “Reuse2Reduce” program, is valuable not only for the contribution to local charities but as part of the College’s ongoing efforts to achieve zero waste.

“The program increased the total volume of material diverted from the waste stream by 150% from 2.4 tons in 2014 to 6 tons in 2015,” said Lisa Mitten, campus sustainability coordinator. “We’re moving toward zero waste by increasing coordination between students, staff from multiple departments, community organizations and community volunteers.”

That included the implementation of clearer signage and instruction on recycling bins in the residence halls. Other strides were made to communicate not only how to recycle unwanted items, but why.

“For this project, we were able to help the students understand that they were participating in a zero waste project and also helping other folks who are less fortunate,” said Laura Petit, recycling coordinator for the Town of New Paltz. “We were actually stopped by students and parents who asked us, ‘Where is this going?’ When they learned what we were doing they thought it was great and wanted to participate.”

Among the many regional beneficiaries of these reusable donations were shelters like Family of New Paltz, Washburn House in Kingston, N.Y. and FAMILY House in Rosendale, N.Y.; the Devereux behavioral healthcare center in Kingston; and the Sparrow’s Nest, a non-profit based in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. that delivers home-cooked meals to individuals afflicted with cancer.

Other items were passed along to the Great Community Giveaway, held May 22 and 23 at the United Methodist Church in New Paltz. The Giveaway is an annual event that brings local residents together and invites them to take what they need from a bounty of donations.

The staff in Facilities Operations are hopeful that the success of this year’s “Reuse2Reduce” program carries over to future end-of-semester move-out periods, as SUNY New Paltz continues to develop and diversify its sustainability efforts.

More information about zero waste at SUNY New Paltz is available online.