Four part-time students will take about a week and a half to sort this mountain of donations accumulated at a facility on North Campus.
Last weekend, as the academic year wound down and students moved out of residence halls, apartments, and houses around town, cars and vans filled the city streets. They were soon loaded with furniture, books, clothes, and other possessions students brought with them last fall or collected during the past several months.
But not everything got packed and taken home. Vehicles became too full to fit one more box. Parents refused to allow one more piece of furniture. Fortunately, both the University and the city of Ann Arbor have programs in place to collect unwanted remains and distribute them to local nonprofits.
And those remains add up. Last year, the University donated a mind-boggling 10.02 tons of goods collected from its 18 residence halls:
- 3.81 tons of clothes
- 2.37 tons of household items
- 2.34 tons of bedding
- 0.84 tons of shoes
- 0.66 tons of food/toiletries
Each residence hall has collection boxes in common areas where students leave their donations.
“I think people are always surprised when I tell them how much material is collected,” said Alison Richardson of U-M’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Office. “When I was meeting with the students to hire them to sort the donations, every time I told them it can range from 9 to 11 tons, their eyes just get really wide.” The beneficiaries of the donations—this year, Food Gatherers, St. Vincent de Paul, the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop, Purple Heart, and Easter Seals—are thrilled to be on the receiving end.
Richardson said the range of donations is wide, from “snacky” foods like ramen and granola bars to stuffed animals and crutches. Wait. Crutches? “We get a lot of crutches,” said Richardson. “We usually have a crutch pile.”
Of course, one student’s trash is another student’s treasure. For some, those with room still left in the family van, move out can be like Christmas in April. Larger items collect in designated “take it or leave it” areas and are free for the taking. According to the housing office website, it could be a good place to get a carpet, a lamp, a drawer.
For those who live off campus, the city set up a temporary drop-off site for two weeks in the student-heavy neighborhood of East University and Oakland avenues. “The first couple of days are slow until the students learn about it,” said Dan Cozart, who staffs at the site. “And then it’s a madhouse.” By Saturday, containers were filled to overflowing with mattresses, chairs, and other castoffs that might find use elsewhere.