An emporium for pre-owned office treasures
New campus materials exchange program accepts, offers reusable items

By Nancy Chapman, Public Affairs


Alexis Petru

Re-USE program developer Alexis Petru works long hours keeping donations organized.
Peg Skorpinski photo

29 November 2001 | In a long, narrow cage about the size of a modest dog run, a new office materials exchange project diverts tons of reusable castoffs from landfill, while providing a gold mine of free booty for students, employees, units and departments.

Conceived and operated by students, Re-USE — short for the Re-used Stuff Emporium — invites the campus community to donate no-longer-needed items such as binders, books, paper with at least one clean side, readers, sweaters.

“We’ll take anything that’s not broken or a hazardous waste,” said Alexis Petru, the third-year student who developed the Re-USE program.

Visit the site in the Student Union parking garage and you might find a nearly new hardcover copy of Maeve Binchy’s “Circle of Friends,” a complete set of “The American Scholar” for the years 1975 to 1992, or a small fog machine donated by a student co-op.

Clearly, a need for such a service exists. A summer 1998 campus waste audit found that almost 7 percent of Cal’s waste by weight qualified as reusable material.

Chancellor Berdahl funded Re-USE as a two-year pilot project with a small overhead — just salaries for five students, each of whom works from five to 20 hours per week. Savings to the campus in solid waste disposal and cash outlay are substantial. Re-USE opened in September. Petru estimates that within the first two weeks of its operation, Re-USE diverted 9,039 pounds of material from landfills and saved its “shoppers” an estimated $5,383.

An amazing array of materials crams Re-USE’s reclaimed shelving and display racks: a pair of button-fly Steelwing jeans, size 14; a pink plastic 6-inch ruler decorated with pigs; a framed poster of a 29-cent Buffalo Soldiers stamp; a spiral notebook with the words “Gore-Lieberman 2000” scrawled on the cover.

So if no one in your office needs those black metal in-baskets, bring them to Re-USE between 11 and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, or find out if Re-USE’s bike trailer is available to pick up donations. Who knows, you may come back with a good-as-new computer keyboard or a pile of blank voter registration forms.

The emporium is located at the northeast corner of the Student Union parking garage under Eshleman Hall, in — what else — repurposed space at the ASUC loading dock. For information, see on the Web.


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