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August 31, 2006

Recycled furniture sale a success

An Oakland nonprofit organization has hopped on the “Redd Up Pittsburgh” bandwagon with a summer-long effort to recycle cast-off furniture and other household items in Oakland.

Each year, as Pitt students vacate their off-campus residences at the end of spring term, large numbers of discarded pieces — desks, dressers, tables, chairs — are strewn about the neighborhood, abandoned to scavengers and the whims of weather, ultimately ending up in landfills.

To counteract the problem, the Oakland Planning and Development Corp. (OPDC) scoured south and central Oakland in April, gathering more than 350 salvageable pieces and restoring them in preparation for a two-day furniture sale, which was held last weekend.

The sale was an unqualified success, according to Laura Halula, OPDC community organizing program manager. “We had our pre-sale Friday evening, and we sold about half of our inventory that night alone,” Halula said. “We sold out of the rest of our larger furniture items on Saturday by mid-afternoon. We raised about $1,100 which will help to fund the furniture collection program and subsequent sale for next year.”

In addition to commonplace household items such as plates, pitchers and bowls, some unusual reclaimed items included bongo drums, Swiffer wet jets and plastic Halloween pumpkins. Nearly all of the reclaimed items sold. Leftover items will be donated to Goodwill Industries, Halula said.

Supported by a $10,000 PNC Foundation grant that paid for an intern, truck rental, furniture repairs and cleaning, and advertising for the sale, OPDC staff gathered the pieces beginning in April. For those items deemed unsalvageable, OPDC coordinated their removal with the city’s Public Works and Environmental Services offices, Halula said.

She said OPDC already is planning to repeat the recycling project next spring. “We definitely proved our hypothesis correct — that there is a demand for such a furniture sale in Oakland, especially during this time of year. We hope to collect two or three times the amount of furniture we collected this year for our sale next August. We are really trying to promote the benefits of recycling furniture, too — less waste and debris ending up in area landfills.”

OPDC plans to expand the project to include an advertising campaign that would tell departing students where to call for a cast-off furniture pick-up.

“Next year, it is important to get the word out early to students moving out in April. I think it is very important to educate students that even though they might not want an item anymore, another student or resident might have a great use for it.”

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 1

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