Expanded Recycling Cuts Year-End Waste in Half

Knox campus donates for reuse, recycling instead

June 25, 2012

Instead of tossing stuff into big trash dumpsters when they move out of their residence halls, Knox College students are redirecting unneeded items to local charities. An expanded recycling initiative this spring boosted contributions to community agencies and slashed the amount sent to local landfills.

"We reduced our usage of trash dumpsters at least by half," said Scott Maust, director of facilities services at Knox. "I estimate that we went from around 10 dumpsters in prior years to four dumpsters this year."

When residence halls closed earlier this month, Knox College students, faculty, and staff volunteers collected literally tons of electronics, clothing, books and household items -- including furniture -- donated by departing students. The items were distributed to some half-dozen charitable organizations in the Galesburg area.

"We recycled 15 computer printers, 10 refrigerators, 10 microwaves, and other appliances -- either donated to charity or properly disposed of," said Todd Smith, coordinator of audiovisual services and a member, with Maust, of the College's  Sustainability Task Force. "We took four truck-loads of reusable items to the Purple Hanger -- a resale shop that raises funds for Safe Harbor Women's Shelter."

With a goal of reducing the amount of year-end disposal as low as possible, the Task Force joined with a long-standing annual clothing drive spearheaded by Sue Hulett, the Rik and Sophia Henke Distinguished Professor of Political Science.

Hulett and student volunteers took four large van-loads of clothing to the various charities, including the Galesburg Rescue Mission and The Salvation Army. "This year we donated more than normal," said Hulett, who's been collecting surplus clothing from students for more than 25 years.

The effort to expand recycling and reduce waste originated with Smith and other members of the Sustainability Task Force, including recent graduate Annika Paulsen, who delivered several car-loads of materials -- 42 bags in all -- to the local charities.

"We want to divert usable things from the landfill and also help the community," said Paulsen, a 2012 graduate from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

"In the Sustainability Task Force this year, we talked about how a lot of usable items get thrown out," Paulsen said. The task force also wants to make sure that batteries and electronic devices are properly recycled.

The expanded recycling drew a high level of commitment at a busy time of year for everyone on campus -- Hulett, Smith, and the students accomplished their task from June 1-3, the same weekend as Knox's 2012 Commencement ceremony. Smith and his students worked the following week, sorting through discarded items and recycling the equivalent of an entire large dumpster.