Cooperative Reuse program, now in 2nd year, aims to reduce dumping during student move-out

Stephanie Li/File

Related Posts

The Cooperative Reuse pilot program, which aimed to eliminate illegal dumping during the student move-out process at the end of the spring 2018 semester, will be repeated this year, starting May 18.

According to a report from the city of Berkeley, over the course of the 2018 program, students collected about 50 sofas, more than 60 desks, 40 chairs, 30 dressers and more than 100 mattresses and box springs — 30 of which were donated to Tongan relief efforts. Increasing the sustainability of student move-outs has been a general collaborative effort involving multiple entities including the ASUC; the city; the Panhellenic Council, or PHC; the Interfraternity Council, or IFC; the Berkeley Student Cooperative; UC Berkeley ReUSE; and Cal Zero Waste.

The Cooperative Reuse program was first launched last year through a grant from the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund and is led this year by Director Ella Smith. Jen Loy, associate director of government and community relations within UC Berkeley’s Office of the Chancellor, said that this year, the ASUC, along with other student groups, has taken on more of a role in the program, and students are focusing on making the program a “sustainable” effort, building on the successes from last year.

“There has been renewed collaborative energy between the campus and the city,” Loy said. “Stakeholders are recognizing the potential for Cooperative Reuse and are interested in finding a path to sustainability.”

Over the course of three weekends starting Saturday, May 18, UC Berkeley students can request a free pickup of their gently used furniture or electronics, which will be placed in the southwest parking lot of the Clark Kerr Campus and will be offered for free for anybody to claim. Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson emphasized the benefit of having the items collected in such a “centralized” location on the south side of campus. According to the city’s report, a move-out drive for campus residence halls last year diverted 4,586 pounds of waste from the waste stream.

“I’m really passionate about (Cooperative Reuse) because student move-out affects (everybody),” Smith said. “It’s important for students to take advantage of (move-out) resources.”

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay’s office was in charge of creating the Cal Move Out website last move-out season. The website includes information regarding how to donate or collect items through the Cooperative Reuse program as well as how to avoid fines issued for illegal dumping.

According to the city of Berkeley’s Clean City program, 160 tons of materials and waste are dumped on the city’s streets each year, costing taxpayers more than $100,000 annually. Those who engage in illegal dumping, which includes putting unwanted furniture on the sidewalk, can be imprisoned and fined up to $1,000 a day.

“(Illegal dumping) is a nuisance to the city, (and) it’s bad for the environment,” Smith said. “Our priority is diverting (waste) from landfills.”

Junior Ella Griffith, who was PHC’s vice president of sustainability last year, recalls the “tight feeling” in her chest after walking on Dwight Way and seeing trash bins overflowing with clothes, shower shelves and other household items.

According to Griffith, because the high rate at which students move out and move in, the cycle of dumping continues. This year, she and current PHC Vice President of Sustainability Maddie Dolan have implemented referencing heat maps to learn where illegal dumping is most concentrated. PHC can then canvass in those areas, distributing flyers with information on the move-out process for different residence types.

Griffith’s main role last year was facilitating meetings between different student groups such as PHC, IFC, Cal Zero Waste and environmentally backed ASUC Senator Anna Whitney’s office, to ensure that groups are not unnecessarily “duplicating” efforts.

“It’s about communication (and) collaboration on the efforts themselves, but also making sure we represent a broad constituency of people,” Griffith said.

Sabina Mahavni covers student life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sabina_mahavni.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jen Loy was the assistant director of local government and community relations within UC Berkeley’s Office of the Chancellor. In fact, she is the associate director of government and community relations.