Every summer, students moving out cram their cars with valuables, forcing them to play Tetris with their desks, chairs and mattresses. Whatever doesn’t fit has to stay.
Sometimes, the furniture stands patiently by a dumpster, waiting to be picked up and transported to a landfill. Other times, the furniture sits comfortably in an air-conditioned thrift store, safe from wood-rot and curious critters.
Many movers aren’t aware of the environmental impact their choice to throw out furniture has, with bulk items packing landfills. In a city with a frequent base of students moving in and out of furnished and unfurnished apartments, strategies like furniture recycling and thrifting have become popular Gainesville options.
Alyssa Soejima, a 21-year-old UF education sciences senior, was in Gainesville during quarantine when she passed by a turquoise glass cabinet by the Beaty Towers dumpster. It was just one of the hundreds of pieces of furniture thrown out by students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Oh my god, that’s so cute,” she said to her roommate. “Let’s steal it.”
This wasn’t the first or the last time the dumpsters overflowed with discarded furniture.
In 2019, furniture made up an estimated 2% of waste, by weight, sent to the landfill, according to a projection by a 2020-2021 Alachua County Waste Composition Study. The study also estimates that for every ton of new furniture purchased that year, Alachua landfilled one-third of the weight in old discarded furniture, said Dr. Timothy G. Townsend, the study’s principal investigator.
“There’s a lot of bulky items such as furniture that are currently discarded,” he said. “And if there was a way to reuse those and offset the purchase of new furniture and the making of new furniture, that is a significant savings and benefit to the environment.”
The report makes several