The University Record, May 7, 1996

Annual spring move-out generates trash, treasures

Carpeting, furniture and wood discarded when students move out of the residence halls are left in 'Take It or Leave It' areas where anyone might find a reusable treasure.

Photo by Rebecca A. Doyle

By Kahli Randall
News and Information Services

Excessive numbers of pop cans and bottles, unopened packages of Ramen noodles, broken ironing boards, and old sofas with "fabric patterns reminiscent of the '70s" are typically the kinds of items U-M students leave in about 4,800 residence hall rooms when they move out every spring, according to Erica Spiegel, coordinator of Waste Management Services at the University.

As students labor through their final exams, Waste Management and Housing facilities staff have an equally difficult task.

According to Spiegel, it costs the University's Housing Division approximately $10,000 to clean up trash left behind by nearly 9,000 students during moveout. "About half of this covers disposal (landfill) fees. The remainder covers the extra labor of Waste Management Services crew to place extra dumpsters for trash collection, provide collection service into the early evening hours and on the weekend, and provide special collections for donations, scrap wood and re cycling," she says.

Hill Area Facilities Manager Ken Davis estimates overtime hours for custodial staff to be about 20 hours per staff member during the week of student moveout. "This does not include the overtime worked by staff in preparing the residence halls for spring and summer occupancy," Davis says. Spiegel points out that since more staff time is needed to collect trash associated with student moveout, service to other parts of campus is sometimes reduced. "Typically, trash volumes from the academic buildings are lighter when classes are out," Spiegel says.

The Facilities staff has anywhere from hours to weeks to conclude the task of clean-up, depending on each building's spring and summer occupancy schedule, says Davis.

Waste Management Services personnel encourage recycling during student moveout.

"Outside each hall there is a 'Take It Or Leave It' area," says Spiegel. Here students may leave items such as carpets, loftwood and furniture. Anyone, including area residents, may take and reuse the discards.

Signs in each residence hall explain what can be donated, and every residence hall lobby has containers for clothing, toiletries and household items where students may donate such items that they do not wish to keep.

"We get close to one ton of food and five tons of clothing donated each year, including t-shirts, old jeans and sneakers. Some of it still has price tags or is still in bags fresh from the dry cleaners," Spiegel says. "We also see blankets, dishes, fans, small lamps and once, even an old 286 computer that ended up being donated to a non-profit group in Detroit."

Collected items are donated to agencies like Purple Heart Services, Huron Harvest Food Bank and local shelters.

Students recycle during moveout more than any other time of the academic year. According to Spiegel, an average of 20 tons of paper is recycled from residence halls alone during moveout. Students generally recycle items such as a year's supply of catalogues, magazines, old notebooks and coursepacks.