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Operation Clean Sweep at Pomona College Discovers "Treasures," Benefits Community & Reduces College Landfill Waste in May by 52%

At Pig Harmony, a pot-bellied pig rescue organization, a pig relaxes on a donated blanket from Pomona College.

At Pig Harmony, a pot-bellied pig rescue organization, a pig relaxes on a donated blanket from Pomona College.

A student scores a Dali poster at the annual ReCoop sale last fall.

A student scores a Dali poster at the annual ReCoop sale last fall.

Mini fridges are always a popular item at the annual ReCoop sale.

Mini fridges are always a popular item at the annual ReCoop sale.

As a college student, have you ever faced the quandary of what to do with that mini-fridge, microwave or television as you headed home for the summer? There’s no easy, inexpensive way to ship these things home and they don’t easily fit into the back of a car for a post-graduation road trip.

Every May, as students leave their dorms for the summer, they also leave a lot of stuff. Five years ago, with the goal of being more socially responsible, the ASPC and Pomona stepped in, with Operation Clean Sweep, to help rescue those things from the landfill.

This year, 28 students organized donation drop-off locations and, post-graduation, searched every dorm room for items left behind. Their haul included a 60-inch television, a first as far as anyone knows; 70-80 small refrigerators; approximately 40 couches and recliners; a huge mound of sheets, towels, blankets and study pillows; small furniture; smaller appliances such as microwaves and toaster ovens; books; 30 pairs of crutches; board games and video games; and kitchen supplies, among other items.

With the goals of promoting responsible living, social responsibility and reuse, the team then sorts the items into those that can be sold at the ReCoop fall sale and those that can be donated.

Currently, seven 20-foot long trailers and a room on campus are filled with furniture, rugs, televisions, power and ethernet cords, shelving, lamps, games, phones, small appliances, hundreds of hangers, and other items that make life more comfortable, all waiting for students to give them a new home.

Over the years, news of the bargains to be found at ReCoop has made it an extremely popular event. Last year, more than 250 people were waiting in line before the doors opened. The 2010 sale raised more than $13,000 to help sustain the Operation Clean Sweep and ReCoop programs.

Among the community programs benefiting from Clean Sweep this year are: Uncommon Good, which helps underprivileged children succeed in school and attend college; the House of Ruth, which advocates for and assists women and children victimized by domestic violence; the Hillview Acres Children’s Home; Better World Books, a book seller that supports literacy efforts around the world; the Los Angeles County Animal Shelter; and Pig Harmony, a pot bellied pig rescue and adoption network, which received five pick-up truck loads of well-used linens.

For Bowen Close, Pomona’s assistant director of sustainability integration, “One of the really great things about Clean Sweep is that the students involved get to see the impact of their work right away. They can see how much stuff is saved from the landfill.”

In May 2006, the year before Operation Clean Sweep, Pomona College sent 113.01 tons of waste to the landfill. In May 2010, it had reduced the amount by more than 52% to 61 tons.