July 31st is a date dreaded by many in Austin, Texas’ West Campus Neighborhood, an area just west of the University of Texas at Austin. Each year when these off-campus apartment leases end, students move out, and furniture and household items galore pile up in alleyways and overflow from roll-offs.
Over 18,000 students live in the West Campus area, and a significant volume of material is abandoned on the curb (and often in the middle of the street) when students move each summer. Much of this material could be reused, and this pattern of dumping causes headaches for students, parents, community members, property owners and the City of Austin alike.
Enter MoveOutATX. Now in its second year of operation, MoveOutATX is a program coordinated by Austin Resource Recovery, University of Texas' Office of Sustainability, Keep Austin Beautiful, and the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling to help students donate instead of dump their unwanted goods.
Property managers lend parking and sidewalks space for reuse organizations to set-up temporary donation stations around the campus area, and students can drop-off a variety of items right outside their apartments. Currently, community volunteers help reuse organizations accept items including: gently-used furniture, opened cleaning supplies and toiletries, clothing and linens (gently-used or extra-loved), craft/school supplies, unopened food, electronics (working or broken), storage tubs and more. All donations go to local reuse organizations; this years’ participating organizations include: Austin Creative Reuse, Central Texas Food Bank, Goodwill Central Texas, Salvation Army Family Stores, Street Youth Ministry, Arms of Hope, JOSCO Products, The JunkLuggers, and Uptown Cheapskate.
Anyone who participates receives a ‘Perks’ sticker, which serves as a reusable coupon at over 25 local eateries and retailers and rewards donors and volunteers for giving back to the community and helping Austin on its journey towards Zero Waste.
Last summer, the 2018 pilot program kept 62 tons of usable material (the volume equivalent of nearly 22.5 school buses) out of the landfill and provided over $150,000 in economic benefit to Austin. It was a win-win for all parties involved: the neighborhood was noticeably cleaner, students received perks at local businesses for donating, reuse organizations collected usable material, and local property managers even saved money from reduced roll-off costs and hired labor.
For university areas looking to start or expand their own move-out diversion program, visit www.moveoutatx.org/2018 for Austin’s MoveOutATX impact report and planning guidance. And if you happen to be in Austin this summer, come volunteer with us! Shift times and locations online at www.moveoutatx.org/volunteer.
This blog post was written by Valerie Vines, intern for the City of Austin's MoveOutATX program.