Blog Post

The Boston Globe recently examined how several Massachusetts higher education institutions are responsibly managing the substantial accumulations of reusable materials on campus. When college and university students leave campus at the end of the school year, they collectively leave behind large quantities of furniture, appliances, clothing, and more. Additionally, many schools are left with surplus desks, chairs, and tables when they make regular upgrades to campus buildings.

Campus leaders are developing new strategies to keep these leftover items out of the trash. Many colleges and universities in Massachusetts have implemented creative solutions to reduce end-of-year waste by reusing, selling, or donating gently used items. Although the exact nature of each program varies by institution, common factors typically include the school’s commitment to reduce waste and the presence of a motivated group of students or community volunteers to assist with implementation. Some colleges and universities have established systems to keep temporarily-unwanted items within their student bodies while others are utilizing community-oriented solutions:

  • Sustainability-minded students from Tufts University collect items across campus every spring. In the fall, they offer it to new and returning students at a back-to-school sale, with the proceeds going to student programming and local charity.
  • At Emerson College, the Sustainability Office establishes temporary on-campus thrift shops at the end of each school year. Amy Elvidge, Emerson’s Sustainability Coordinator, reports that students appreciate knowing that their unwanted belongings are staying on campus and benefiting fellow students.
  • Harvard University operates a 7,000 sq. ft. Recycling and Surplus Center that accepts unwanted furniture, supplies, and equipment from nearly 500 campus buildings. For two hours a week, the warehouse is open to the public, and all items are available at no cost. The program has generated significant interest across the local community, with customers lining up before the warehouse opens each week.
  • Boston University partners with Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries by placing donation bins in several locations across campus. Since the partnership began nine years ago, Boston University has donated more than 600 tons of items to Goodwill, including 79 tons last year alone.

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts provides no-cost technical assistance to help colleges and universities start or expand recycling and food waste diversion programs. RecyclingWorks also hosts regular College and University Forums for higher education professionals to discuss waste reduction topics. Don’t miss the upcoming RecyclingWorks webinar from 1:00-2:00 PM on August 16th to learn more about Improving Recycling Quality at Colleges and Universities. To speak to a recycling and food waste diversion expert, call our hotline: (888) 254-5525 or email us at