Resident After What’s Found In Dumpster on College Move-In Day: ‘It kills me’

As the academic year commences, college campuses buzz with excitement. However, this excitement has a dark side: the significant surge in waste production.

From heaps of plastic packaging to discarded electronics and mountains of unwanted items, the start of the school year marks a peak in a cycle of consumption and waste with dire environmental implications.

Education’s Waste Product

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Illustration. Photo Credit:VH-studio/ Shutterstock.

A concerned local shared a photo from Iowa State University’s move-in day, showing dumpsters overflowing with cardboard, plastics, and other materials – all empty just the morning before.

Many people chimed in with their experiences and suggestions. One talked about a program at their university where shipping containers are placed outside dorm buildings during the move-out week. Students can leave still-usable items, which are then stored over the summer and redistributed to incoming students at meager costs during move-in week. They add,

“It blows my mind that more universities don’t use this approach.”

Another shares a personal anecdote,

“My college did this too, except we were allowed to pick through it right away – end of Spring semester. I got a bunch of awesome shirts and my favorite small rug from there. I kept that rug for almost a decade.”

One points out the systemic issue,

“A large part of it is the way colleges treat students at move-out. Oh, you just finished finals, a very stressful time that monopolized your attention for weeks? Cool. You have two days to get all your stuff out of the dorms and move out. No, we will not be offering any support whatsoever.”

One person reflects,

“Wild to think all that stuff thrown out on move-out day was brand new here on move-in day. I could see this as potentially okay as it’s a collective of tiny adults starting their lives and acquiring the things needed (although, so many new boxes, buy used people), which they then hold onto for many years to come. But we all know just how many year-old microwaves are tossed end of semester.”

The Startling Statistics

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Image Credit: SergeyNivens/Deposit Photos.

The numbers are staggering. On average, a college student generates about 640 pounds of solid waste each year, much of it initiated during the move-in period. Despite recycling efforts, U.S. universities only manage an average recycling rate of 24%, with a diversion rate (including recycling, reuse, and composting) of 45%.

The environmental impact doesn’t stop there. Annually, U.S. college students contribute more than 200 million tons of waste. A single college cohort at a private university can generate an average of 430,000 plastic bottles per year. And it’s not just about plastics and general trash.

About 22 million pounds of food is discarded annually on U.S. college campuses.

These statistics are a wake-up call, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive sustainability programs on college campuses.

Rethinking Packaging: Embrace Reusability

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Photo Credit: ridofranz/Deposit Photos.

One significant source of waste during college move-ins comes from disposable packaging. Students can make a substantial difference by opting for reusable boxes instead of single-use cardboard.

Local grocery stores often have sturdy boxes they’re willing to give away, which can be used for moving and later recycled. Additionally, instead of using bubble wrap for fragile items, students can use their clothes, towels, or bedding to provide cushioning.

Moreover, students flying to school can minimize waste by following sustainable travel tips. These practices reduce waste and encourage a reusability mindset that students can carry with them beyond the move-in day.

Sustainable Dorm Living: Choose Secondhand & Natural Materials

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Image Credit: SeventyFour/Shutterstock.

Before purchasing new items for dorm rooms, students should consider the temporary nature of their accommodation. Most students won’t stay in their dorm room for more than a year, leading to significant waste once the school year ends. Opting for secondhand items or borrowing from older students can significantly reduce this waste.

When purchasing is necessary, choosing products made from natural materials over plastics can contribute to sustainability, as natural materials are often more easily recyclable or biodegradable.

Campus-Wide Initiatives: Beyond Recycling

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Image Credit: MargaritaDemidova/DepositPhotos.

While individual actions are crucial, institutional practices can amplify the impact. Universities can adopt zero-waste initiatives, such as comprehensive recycling programs, reusable food container services, and campus-wide educational campaigns.

For instance, some campuses have introduced programs to recycle flexible plastics and personal protective equipment like masks and gloves. These larger-scale efforts can significantly reduce the overall waste footprint of college move-ins.

Every Action Counts

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Image Credit: Dejan Dundjerski/Shutterstock.

The transition to sustainable living doesn’t happen overnight, and the accumulation of small, thoughtful decisions often leads to substantial change. Whether it’s saying no to freebies, bringing your own cup to parties, or setting up a waste-free toolkit, each action contributes to a larger culture of sustainability.

As more students and universities embrace these practices, the traditional narrative of wasteful college living can be rewritten. Remember, the goal isn’t perfection; it’s conscious improvement.

More from Viral Chatter

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Image Credit: BongkarnGraphic/Shutterstock.

Imagine starting a new semester, excited and eager, only to be handed a mandatory textbook list with exorbitant prices. Now, picture realizing that these expensive textbooks are often penned by friends or colleagues of your very own professors.

In a viral TikTok video, a college sophomore named Jocy doesn’t just imagine it—she lives it.

‘Every week I hop on a 6am flight’ Graduate Student’s Weekly Commute to Class by Airplane

Image Credit: Titok/loafs_.

One student’s extraordinary weekly journey takes center stage in an age dominated by remote learning and working. Meet Loafs, a student who brings a unique approach to her education.

She regularly boards an airplane, traveling from New York City to Chicago, all to attend her graduate school classes at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Her remarkable commitment defies the conventional norms of education in the digital age.


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This article was produced and syndicated by Viral Chatter. It was inspired by this Reddit thread.

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.