Students reuse and recycle in YMCA’s ‘Dump and Run’

by Mary Stegmeir

Matthew Bahr cannot count how many shoes he has thrown away in the process of moving from one place to the next.

Like many college students, move-out time meant a trip to the dumpster for the University YMCA employee.

Seeing overflowing trash bins around campus each spring prompted Bahr and other YMCA employees to search for a way to decrease the amount of reusable materials students discard each year.

He found his answer in “Dump and Run,” a national program designed to limit end-of-the-year waste at colleges.

From next Monday through May 17, the University YMCA will collect reusable items that might otherwise end up in the trash.

Furniture, clothing, appliances, books and other useful items students plan to throw away are accepted free of charge at the YMCA during the “Dump and Run” week.

“If it’s not broken, we’ll take it,” Bahr said. “Everything is free to drop off.”

Almost anything can be donated as long as it is not gas-powered and can be reused. Volunteers will help students move large items to the YMCA “Dump and Run” site.

“We’ll accept stuff now, hold it for the summer and sell it back to students in the fall,” Bahr said.

Money from the sale will pay for summer storage fees and fund the program, he said.

“This is the first time this has ever been done at the University,” Bahr said. “It’s really going to be interesting to see if the students respond.”

“We are offering a service to students that helps the environment and the student,” he said.

“Dump and Run” founder Lisa Heller said the program forces students to look at the things they consider trash in a new light.

“It educates people,” she said. “We are a very wasteful nation.”

The idea of “Dump and Run” was born in 1998 when Heller was a faculty member at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

“I noticed a tremendous amount of materials that the students would throw away at the end of the year,” she said.

The self-described “yard-sale junkie” loaded her Honda Civic with the discarded items hoping to find someone who could use them.

Heller had not planned to sell the collection of odds and ends, but when the debate team she coached needed more funding, she decided to hold a yard sale.

The sale raised $400 for the team and encouraged Heller to repeat the recycling effort on a larger scale the next year.

Since then, “Dump and Run” has gained popularity.

This year, 20 schools in the United States and Canada have “Dump and Run” sites.

These colleges pay a consultation fee of $1,000 or agree to share 30 percent of their profits with the program in order to use the “Dump and Run” name.

Schools involved with “Dump and Run” have earned a total of $60,000 since 2000.

Heller said most colleges earn $5,000 to $8,000 annually.

Aimee Kandrac, University of Illinois YMCA development director, said her organization entered the program last year and made $13,000.

“We have a lot of international students who come with nothing – only the suitcase or two they can fit on the plane,” she said. “They were able to get everything they needed at the sale.”

The University of Illinois YMCA is participating in “Dump and Run” again this year.