Beautiful U initiative reaps heaps of salvage

Heather Fors

William Durfee slowly chipped away Monday at the mountain of papers on his desk and in his file cabinets.
Much of the papers, manilla folders and books sitting in a gray bin in the Mechanical Engineering building belong to the associate professor.
Since its start in October, the “Beautiful U” initiative has encouraged faculty, staff and students to toss out old files stuffed in their cabinets. In some departments, it has been 50 years since building occupants have cleared off forgotten shelves and gotten rid of dilapidated furniture and equipment.
“Everyone has their own comfort level,” Durfee said. “I will never be at a state where you see a clean executive desk because this is stuff I actually use.”
But many departments have found plenty of old junk they no longer use. By the end of March, the University recycling center had accumulated 554 tons of materials, including about 600 outdated or broken computers.
Durfee’s department leads the school in the number of bins filled, which exceeds 100 in a mere week.
The numbers illustrate the warm reception President Mark Yudof’s program has received from the University community. The clean-up will run up a tab of about $180,000. But it is money well-spent, said Eric Kruse, interim vice president for operations.
However, more bins mean more work for Facilities Management crews who take care of garbage and recycling. There are drawbacks on the disposal end as well.
“The limitation there is we have only so much space,” said Dana Donatucci, the University’s recycling coordinator. In an effort to reuse salvageable office equipment and furniture, the University’s recycling center is trying to sell some old wares.
At a makeshift store located at the University recycling center on Como Avenue, anyone can purchase used computers, chairs, desks and old equipment. Departments get the goods for free if they prove a need.
If recycling officials can find homes for the outdated equipment by selling it at “dirt-cheap” prices, the University doesn’t have to pay to get rid of it, said Phil McDonald, a Facilities Support Services manager.
But it takes time to establish connections with interested buyers. Over time, the showroom space shrinks so less desirable stuff gets tossed anyway, Donatucci said.
Still, officials want to keep up the effort. Donatucci said he would like to have an established cleaning system that would require departments to keep on top of the work done this year.
Such an initiative cannot be implemented until the final budget plan has been worked out in June. This year’s efforts were made possible by one-time, nonrecurring funds.
“It’s something that may happen again in the future but right now there is not a definite plan,” Kruse said.