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Trash to Treasures for Food Banks and Non-Profits

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
May 23, 2007

Discarded clothing stacks up in Williamson Hall.

When students moved out of their dorms in the spring of 2006, they left behind between 200 and 300 bags of clothing and more than 3,000 pounds of unopened food. From the looks of the piles that were stacking up in Williamson Hall last week, those numbers will be matched again this year.

But the cast-offs don’t go to waste, thanks to UNH RENU (Recycling Everything New and Used), an end-of-the-year recycling program run by volunteers that redistributes unwanted items to organizations that help the needy.

Now in its 5th year, RENU’s goals are two-fold, says Brian O’Donnell, a graduate student who co-coordinated this year’s collections with junior Liz Joseph.

“It’s to keep people from just throwing stuff out and to get what they don’t want into the hands of people that really need it,” O’Donnell said.

The effort started a few days before move-out when RENU volunteers placed two boxes in the lounge of each dorm, one for clothes and one for unopened, nonperishable food. Flyers were given to the hall directors to pass out or post. The collection boxes were put in place on May 3. Thrice-weekly pickups were made through May 21. It took about 10 volunteers a day to empty the boxes.

UNH RENU co-coordinator Brian O'Donnell sorts food left behind by students who moved out of their dorms last week.

All of the discarded items were then taken to Williamson where volunteers separated the clothing into categories: men’s, women’s, shoes, towels, linens and blankets. Any opened or perishable food was tossed.

O’Donnell estimated the surplus clothing amounts to four or five articles per student living on campus. All of the items will be donated to local organizations like Cornucopia, the Waysmeet Center, Operation Blessing, Goodwill and Crossroads House.

“We’d like to be able to expand to furniture,” O’Donnell said. “It takes a lot of volunteers. The hardest part is coordinating everyone.”

For more information on recycling and sustainable living visit http://www.sustainableunh.unh.edu.

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