U of O's 'Dump and Run' salvages items students leave behind

Volunteers gathered at the University of Ottawa on Saturday for the 10th annual “Dump and Run” event, salvaging items left behind after students move out of their dorms.

Volunteers collected 8,000 kilograms of usable items at last year's event

The University of Ottawa holds its annual 'Dump and Run' event on April 28, 2018. Volunteers salvage usable items left behind by students moving out of their dorm rooms. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

Volunteers gathered at the University of Ottawa on Saturday for the 10th annual Dump and Run event, salvaging items left behind after students move out of their dorms.

Since 2008, the event has saved more than 49,000 kilograms of abandoned items from entering landfills, according to the university's numbers.

During the last two weeks of classes, each residence building designates a "dump-and-run table," where students can drop off unwanted items before moving out.

Then, in the weeks after students have left, volunteers move room to room, searching for — and usually finding — usable items and clothing that have simply been left behind. 

Volunteers gathered at the University of Ottawa on Saturday for the annual event, salvaging items left behind after students move out of their dorms. 0:59

Items go to charity

"It's very important to me that we're doing this because we're recovering all this stuff," said Brigitte Morin, waste diversion coordinator with the University of Ottawa.

On Saturday, items were sorted into piles in a large room in the basement of the Leblanc Residence, with stacks of food, clothing, cleaning supplies and bedding each taking up their own space. 

Anything that's salvageable will be donated to local charities or be sent to the university's Free Store, which gives away items to students at no cost, Morin said.

"So not only are we avoiding sending things that are perfectly good to landfill, we're redistributing it to people who will use it."

Students moving out of their dormitories leave behind a huge range of usable items, including cleaning supplies. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

About 50 volunteers

The number of items volunteers gather has been increasing each year, Morin said, with last year's total haul weighing in at around 8,000 kilograms.

Things have become very cheap.- Brigitte Morin

Visiting each residence at the university, both on and off-campus, is a big job.

The University of Ottawa has 11 residence buildings, and volunteers with Dump and Run will be visiting all of them, Morin said — meaning they'll have combed through about 5,000 rooms by the time they're done.

Around 50 volunteers helped out this year, dividing into teams to tackle the different buildings.

Everything to be reused

The university's Free Store is stocked with inventory salvaged during the annual event, said Lila Ibrahim, the store's volunteer coordinator.

She said Dump and Run ties into a larger push toward sustainability, with more and more people recognizing the need to keep usable items out of landfills. 

All the food and items recovered by volunteers will be donated to local charities or used for events on campus. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

"It feels great … to see so many things getting saved," she said. 

As for the most common item students leave behind? It's kitchenware, according to volunteer William Hinse-MacCulloch.

"A lot of people who go home, they bought a lot of pots and pans and plates and bowls," said Hinse-MacCulloch, who's been volunteering for the Dump and Run for the last four years. "They don't need it anymore because they're going back to mom and dad."

Even left-behind food is gathered and sorted. Anything that can be used will be donated to food banks, community organizations or be contributed to campus food programs, Hinse-MacCulloch said.

For Morin, the Dump and Run is just another way to beat back the seemingly endless cycle of consumerism.

"I think that things have become very cheap," she said. "So people just buy everything and then at the end of the year a lot of people … just leave it behind."

Volunteers recovered abandoned books, kitchenware, storage furniture and school supplies, which may have otherwise ended up in a landfill. (Leah Hansen/CBC)