Monday, June 30, 2008

dumpster diving 101

Dumpster diving is practically an Olympic Sport in Athens--an event held annually right around the end of spring quarter when everyone's year-long housing contracts run out. Starting June 16th (the last day of finals) a giant game of musical chairs begins with thousands of students moving out of their apartments, purging their rooms of all kinds of useful junk and moving into their new places. It all comes to a head June 30th, the day that most contracts officially expire and students must have their apartments emptied out. There are three different thrift stores in town but only a small fraction of the discarded furniture ever ends up on their loading docks. Instead couches, futons, shelves, beds, dressers, lights, bikes, desks, filing cabinets, and piles of perfectly good used housewares ends up on curb-sides, in dumpsters, and in apartment complex parking lots.

In our complex the campus recycling office has designated a patch of grass beside the dumpster as a drop zone for "reusable goods." Over the past few weeks the pile has been steadily growing and every couple of days something turns up that is worth going out there to pick up. Between the pile outside our complex and other piles around town we have managed to score one book shelf, a bathroom shelf, a white board, a clock radio, several plastic bins, a door mirror, a house plant, a salad bowl, a five-drawer dresser, and a kitchen table. Some of the items were new acquisitions, but many, like the kitchen table and the book shelf, were upgrades of what we already had, and the old stuff we simply swapped out and took to the pile for someone else to take.

The common explanation for the mass purging of stuff around town is that students are all spoiled--that there parents pay for everything they need so its no big deal if they leave behind a kitchen table or a futon. There's also a lot of talk about the practically disposable furniture sold at Walmart every fall to the incoming students that isn't built to last more than a few months. It may be a combination of the two, or it may be something altogether different. What ever the reason, the fact remains: right now in Athens dumpster diving is thriving, and the competition is fierce, so if you see a coffee table you like, don't go home and see if you've got room for it, take it now and check out your space later. You can always just put it on another pile if you decide you don't like it.

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