As students move out, local program helps salvage items

Pack & Give Back salvaged almost 70,000 pounds of items last May, organizers said.

by Barry Lytton

In the weeks leading up to the fall semester, the flux of students moving in and out of University of Minnesota housing and campus-area neighborhoods yields its casualties. Mangled mattresses, broken bookshelves and shattered mirrors litter the streets.

But some of those items will be saved by Pack & Give Back, a program coordinated between the city of Minneapolis, the University and a bevy of neighborhood associations. In its second year of operation, the program is extending its reach into the campus area to clear out waste and collect any salvageable items.

Last year, the program was limited to University housing, University sustainability coordinator Stacey White said. But now it will branch out to the Marcy-Holmes, Southeast Como, Prospect Park and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods.

City and University trucks will pick up items under 200 pounds and deliver them to the University’s ReUse “Free Store” in Southeast Como. There, any student or donating community member can pick up items like tables, small appliances and lamps for free through Sept. 6.

Last week’s rainfall ruined some streetside furniture, hindering the third truck from Bridging, a nonprofit that picks up furniture exclusively for people in need.

Pack & Give Back serves a double function, White said, because it keeps usable furniture out of landfills while allowing the objects to have a longer lifespan with a new owner.

Griffin Rush, a physics junior who moved into a new home in Southeast Como on Monday, said he took advantage of street debris, rescuing a black leather couch from roadside abandonment.

“It’s a common sense push too,” White said. “If [students] are putting their TV out on the curb, why isn’t there a system where [people] can get that?”

Revamping efforts

Pack & Give back will revamp a former Move In/Move Out, or MIMO, program that folded in 2012 after funding ran out, said Southeast Como Improvement Association neighborhood director Ricardo McCurley. Funding for that program will come, in part, from both neighborhood groups and a grant amounting to about $15,000 from Hennepin County.

When MIMO ended, officials and neighbors alike quickly noted trash piling up during move-in and move-out week, he said.

“When the coalition came together, they were looking for solutions,” McCurley said, “at which point [SECIA] raised [its] hands and said, ‘Hey, we had a solution, and nobody wanted to fund it and it fell by the wayside.’”

In its first year, the program salvaged almost 70,000 pounds of reusable items, White said. A majority of those collections came from dorm areas alone, said recent University graduate and neighborhood liaison Phillip Kelly.

But this year, with increased funding and a larger focus area, the program will test new waters, said Kellie Kish, one of the city’s recycling coordinators.

A city-organized “Dirty Collection Point” will also supplement Pack & Give Back.

As part of the accelerated garbage pickup plan, garbage collectors who see debris scattered within their routes in near-campus neighborhoods will decide whether it is reusable or refuse it.

Individuals leaving items streetside — regardless of the items’ final destination or which entity picked them up — will foot the bill, Kish said.

Landlords will often subtract those costs from a renter’s security deposit, but in the case of houses, the city will append it to upcoming utility bills, said Tim Harmsen, who owns more than 50 properties in the Dinkytown and Marcy-Holmes areas.

Most of the thousands of dollars from Hennepin County went to promoting the program — making signs, magnets and flyers, in hopes of making Pack & Give Back a regular feature of moving into University life.

“You know about it your freshman year,” said Kelly. “The idea is that once you move off campus, you’re still a part of that program.”