A pile of trash after students move out from residence halls.

Transforming Trash into Treasure

The Students:
Henrique Checcucci ’24, Sol Giesso ’24, Can Guven ’24, and Efthymios Loukedes ’24

A proposal to recycle usable items discarded when students move out of their residence halls won first place and $1,500 in the 2022 WPI Sustainability Innovation Challenge, a weeklong series of networking and skills-building seminars that culminated in a pitch competition before a panel of faculty and alumni. The contest was sponsored by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, WPI’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and the Office of Sustainability.

The Problem:
Students could spend about $600 to buy all the items in WPI’s residence hall move-in list. The team estimates the average student produces 640 pounds of trash every year, most of which is a result of the moving-out process. Many usable items are discarded because students don’t have the time or ability to resell or donate items during the hectic move-out process.

The Proposed Solution:
1. Collect usable items that students might throw away during move-out, store them over the summer, and then have incoming students pick out what they want during move-in.

2. Create a year-round Canvas group where students can post items for sale/trade and find out more about residential waste.

The team estimates each student might save about $70 while keeping thousands of pounds of usable items out of the landfill.

Future Steps:
1. Identify space to store items over the summer.

2. With help from Green Team, collaborate with the Facilities Department to determine the most convenient drop-off locations for students as they move out. 

3. Inform all students about the system—those moving out and those moving in.

The team planned to spend C- and D-Terms moving the idea to the next level with the help of Green Team, faculty mentors, and the Office of Sustainability. The hope is to have something in place by spring 2023.

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