Local Reuse Effort Gains Momentum

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Tompkins Weekly April 9, 2012

By Nina Piccoli

Every spring in the Ithaca area, thousands of students graduate, move out of their apartments and set off for new lives and locales. The truckloads of reusable materials that are left behind in dumpsters or on porches, curbs and front yards often end up in a truck headed for a distant landfill. Meanwhile, there are people in our communities who could benefit from the durable goods left behind.

At the same time, construction season is warming up, and whole or partial buildings are demolished or renovated. The materials are trucked to a construction and demolition (C&D) transfer station, where materials are sorted by type. Then they are trucked again—some to be recycled, but most to be buried in landfills.

Reusing these materials instead can transform communities in various ways. They are now providing cost-saving benefits and alleviating poverty in Tompkins County and beyond, as well as providing disaster relief. The process of reusing, reclaiming, harvesting, salvaging, upcycling, recycling, repairing and refurbishing capitalizes on low cost, locally available resources and supports meaningful work experiences, whether through job training, entrepreneurship, volunteerism, educational workshops, do-it-yourself projects, or living wage careers.

Buying reused items is a great way to shop locally and sustainably. Giving the items a second life and preserving their economic value has many positive environmental implications—the amount of waste that can be diverted from landfills by reuse is remarkable, and natural resources that would otherwise go into production and transportation of new goods can be conserved. The regional economy is also supported when you buy reused materials.

How can you help make the advantages of reuse a reality here in Tompkins County? Have you ever wondered what to do with something that you do not need anymore but you think there is someone out there who might? Do you want to keep the amount of stuff you are sending to landfills to a minimum? Do you need something for your home but want to reduce emissions and preserve natural resources?

There is a growing local reuse movement, and Finger Lakes ReUse is one of the organizations promoting reuse in our area.

Finger Lakes ReUse (FLR) is a nonprofit organization started in 2008 to enhance community, economy and environment through reuse. Every year FLR continues to grow to help support Ithaca’s community efforts regarding sustainability. Current seasonal efforts include a computer and electronics reuse drive in partnership with Tompkins Trust at East Hill Plaza on April 21; a new student-based initiative, the Student ReUse Council, to raise awareness and reduce student waste; and a free pickup service that will be provided in May for departing students. This pickup service is also offered year round at an additional cost.

FLR focuses on reuse of furniture, household items, building materials, computers and electronics. All of these items can be donated or purchased at the ReUse Center, which is open every day at the Triphammer Marketplace. Other core reuse programs include the eCenter (a computer reuse program) and Deconstruction Services (an environmentally friendly alternative to demolition).

FLR began the eCenter program in 2010, refurbishing computers and printers for reuse, as well as offering tech support with special rates for local nonprofits and low-income families. You can find great prices on desktops, laptops, printers and other computer peripherals that are refurbished and tested by eCenter staff and volunteers—all available seven days a week at the ReUse Center. The eCenter also currently offers classes for high school students to learn computer repair and technology skills and has partnered with GIAC Conservation Corps to provide training in both technology and deconstruction skills.

FLR has developed a Deconstruction Services program as a sustainable alternative to demolition— 70 to 90 percent of a building’s components can be salvaged for reuse. Deconstruction significantly reduces the environmental impact of demolition and ensures that large quantities of valuable building materials and natural resources are kept out of landfills. FLR deconstructs the buildings by hand to carefully preserve the maximum amount of materials. A significant labor force is required, and volunteers are always needed. Workers are trained in safety, proper tool use and careful removal of building materials. Deconstruction creates quality local jobs and work experiences for members of the Finger Lakes region.

FLR provides volunteer opportunities, educational programming and job-skills training for community members, and it is a local, community- based nonprofit organization and a certified living-wage employer.

Want to get involved? FLR will host an orientation for volunteers interested in assisting with computer reuse and refurbishment on Wednesday evening, April 18, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. There are also many upcoming opportunities to help out with deconstruction projects. For more information, send an email to louise@fingerlakesreuse.org.

Nina Piccoli is Outreach and Development Associate at Finger Lakes ReUse.

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