Waste Management

Attention Sidewalk Shoppers and Dumpster Divers


Dumpsters outside Johnson & Wales University in Providence. (ecoRI News)

PROVIDENCE — As college students packed up to leave the city, many of their belongings ended up curbside. During the past few weeks of May, it’s not unusual to see couches, desks, floor lamps and small appliances lining the curbs in front of multifamily homes. On campus, overstuffed Dumpsters outside dorms often disgorge their contents.

This year, colleges and universities again rolled in huge Dumpsters to handle the overflow of trash at undergraduate dorms. Johnson & Wales University placed three 20-yard Dumpsters behind its dorms on Pine Street. Brown University peppered its campus with Dumpsters.

While sincere efforts were made by student groups to collect items for donation, at Brown University the heaping Dumpsters placed near the underwhelming donation corrals told the sad tale of a pervasive throwaway culture. There were TVs, unworn shoes and like-new clothing.

By Memorial Day, scavengers — aka sidewalk shoppers — were out in force. Some patrolled the streets in pickup trucks, scooping up the jettison. Others browsed on foot and took what they could carry.

ecoRI News spotted three scavengers picking through the abundant Dumpsters behind Brown University dorms on Young Orchard Street. Their work was interrupted by a Brown police officer who told them they needed to get off Brown University property because of liability issues.

The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, which operates the state’s Central Landfill, told ecoRI News there is an anecdotal bump in the tonnage of trash collected in May but didn’t have any hard figures.

For those who want to get their holiday shopping done early, it might be worthwhile to poke around the streets of the East Side during the waning weeks of May. There is plenty in stock, and you can’t beat the prices.


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  1. Seeing this is such a sin. I wonder if Brown, RISD, Johnson & Wales and URI could hold a "yard sale" event before the students left. I would imagine locals as well as, students could benefit from it so that this doesn't end up in the landfill that is already being taxed beyond belief.
    I'm sure the students would love to leave with a little extra money in their pockets or if they are anxious to get home, they could 'donate' it to the school/university to benefit from the sale, if staff are going to be the ones selling it.

  2. The URI main campus in Kingston does hold a yard sale at the end of every academic year, and we begin accepting donations from students in mid-May during move-out. http://www.uri.edu/news/releases/?id=6267
    Sadly, as the ecoRI article states, the problem is the throwaway culture that most students have latched onto. Despite the extensive efforts of campus staff and volunteers, we still will have students who are in a rush and don't want to take the extra step to donate an item and would rather toss it in the nearest trash can.

  3. My drive way has been taken over by desks, lamps, chairs, night stands, unopened pantry food in a plastic bag, plastic storage shelves, mattresses, box springs, bed frames, a box of mugs, glasses and plates, and countless (literally) bags of "trash."

    When ecoRI's staff helped manage waste stations at the Cox Rhode Race in early May, a homeless man politely asked our director if he could take a few empty plastic yogurt containers from the trash because he said they would come in handy as bowls. The disparity between what different people in our city think of as trash it truly a sad sign of our times.

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