At the end of spring final exam period, Yale students rushing to move out of their dorm rooms may have concerns other than reducing the amount of trash they throw out. But new statistics from Spring Salvage, Yale’s end-of-year item donation program, show a marked decrease in this year’s garbage output.
With the help of the Spring Salvage, the amount of waste generated last May was 168.8 tons, a significant reduction from the 215.9 tons produced in May 2005. A corresponding 110 percent increase in the material donated to the salvage program stemmed from a grant from the Yale Green Fund, improvement in collection and storage capacity for item donations, and increased coordination among the departments in charge of cleaning out student housing.
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George Le ’08, a volunteer for Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership (STEP), said students tend to make decisions about end-of-year recycling based on ease and convenience.
“Are you going to pay $200 to rent out storage, or throw out $100 worth of stuff?” he said.
C.J. May, Yale’s recycling coordinator, said students are often more likely to throw out valuable items in their rush to move out for the summer. But Yale’s culture is changing with regard to recycling, she said.
Students said they think the program is a step in the right direction.
“I don’t think it is a misuse of Yale resources,” Faizan Diwan ’10 said. “It is really convenient for students.”
The Spring Salvage program is roughly five years old, but it underwent a major expansion this past year. A grant from the Yale Green Fund, which provides money to groups and individuals who aim to improve Yale’s environmental management, helped fund some of this year’s collection costs.
“We had never even tried in the past to deal with this kind of volume,” said Sara Smiley-Smith GRD ’07, one of the student coordinators of Spring Salvage.
Coordinators for the program borrowed ideas from Harvard’s spring recycling system, which has experienced great success in recent years. Harvard undergraduates affiliated with the on-campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity help sort the collected items, and Habitat receives part of the proceeds when the items are sold back to students in the fall. The move-in sales help raise more than $50,000 for the charity annually, Smiley-Smith said.
The Yale program did not directly resell the items collected through Salvage. Instead, 90 local charities were invited to peruse the warehouse and choose items which could be of use to them. The Salvation Army alone received 11 tons of clothes, and altogether, 19 tons of items were given to 25 charity groups last year. Smiley-Smith said some charities would have liked to take more items but could not because they did not have the resources to store them.
“One of the biggest stumbling blocks for local charities is lack of storage space,” Smiley-Smith said.
The organizers of the Spring Salvage faced their own storage problems. Even with a more efficient collection system, finding a space large enough to keep the donated items until they were distributed posed a major obstacle, May said. The organizers eventually secured Yale warehouse space for summer storage, but will not be able to use the same facility this year.
A large number of donations were also sent to the Dominican Republic and Guatemala through an organization known as the Institutional Recycling Network. Additionally, the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, a New Haven charity, sold many of the items back to students this fall.
Organizers said they have ambitious plans for the future. While the Green Fund grant money will not be available this year, Smiley-Smith said the relationships built between the Yale Office of Sustainability, Custodial Staff, Recycling Staff and Grounds Maintenance are a crucial new resource for the project. The rainy weather during May also provided a challenge to the collection plans, and if the conditions are better this year, Smiley-Smith said an increase in donations on the order of last year’s is not out of reach.