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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Furniture recycling ‘not perfect’

Published: November 1, 2013
Section: News, Top Stories

Despite numerous anonymous comments and tips on the inappropriate disposal of furniture at Brandeis, administration members insist that the job they are doing is adequate.

“We do not profess perfection, but a genuine effort is made,” said Senior Vice President for Administration Mark Collins. “We make an effort to maximize the life of those products by redistributing them, donating where we can, but some items will be disposed of because that is the right thing to do.”

Brandeis constantly undergoes renovations, including the major undertakings this past year in East Quad, Charles River apartments and the Shapiro Campus Center. Departments also undergo furniture changes, updating offices and classrooms and disposing of antiquated desks and file cabinets. Brandeis insists they do whatever they can to recycle furniture appropriately.

“My experience at Brandeis has been that there is generally a reuse within the department for a lot of furnishings. Their ‘old’ may not be as old as the one next door to them. Eventually I think what is really usable in our environment and within the department is used within that department. We keep a stainless or metal steel dumpster behind Epstein, and anything that is recyclable goes in that dumpster,” said Collins.

Collins described where each piece of furniture went when Brandeis re-furnished the Charles River apartments. Most large furniture was given to a company called the International Recycling Network, who sorted through the inventory and took out useful items. Usable materials such as mattresses were sent to Haiti. All of the bureaus from the dorms were sent to a local charity called My Brother’s Keeper.

In East Quad, the bed frames were taken apart and put into the dumpster by Epstein. The other furniture was considered unusable anywhere else, as it was composed of wall units made to fit a certain area.

“Let me be clear: Are we perfect? Probably not, but we make an effort to maximize the life of those products by redistributing them, donating where we can,” Collins stated again.

Professor Ann Koloski-Ostrow, associate professor and chair of the department of classical studies, reports that she was recently informed of a new policy about furniture disposal. “Brandeis is no longer willing to store old furniture, so when members of a department or program wish to replace their old furniture or remove pieces from individual offices because a desk or chair is no longer needed, the department or program must make the arrangements themselves for a mover to come to take that furniture away, to have it moved to another place on campus, and to bear the expense of the move,” she said in an email to The Hoot.

“We seem to get our money’s worth out of furniture,” stated Collins, saying that often departments will donate the furniture to another location on campus, a model the classics department followed.

Koloski-Ostrow states she would be disappointed to find out that Brandeis was improperly disposing furniture. “I would be very sad to learn that Brandeis is throwing out old furniture with no opportunity for others to take it somewhere else on campus or to give it to institutions that might need it in Waltham or elsewhere in the Boston area,” she said.

“Probably,” said Collins, when asked if the university could increase its recycling and proper disposal of large items such as furniture and computers. “We are always looking to where we can add to our sustainability efforts.”

Collins again emphasized Brandeis’ habit of reusing furniture in other places, such as the couches from the Shapiro Campus Center, which migrated to Chums. Brandeis pays for upholstering, so the furniture looks different now, new and more modern. This maneuver also saves money.

“I don’t want to portray the picture that we are perfect and no pieces escape this cycle,” said Collins, when discussing Brandeis’ efforts to recycle and reuse furniture.