Friday, August 10, 2012

Reusing junk from the trunk - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Garages are notorious graveyards for old, unused items -- an outgrown bike, a bag of last season's fashions or a memorable piece of old furniture.

The first ReuseFest, hosted by the Pennsylvania Resources Council Inc., gives residents an easy solution for what to do with all that junk collecting dust.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the parking lot at 26th and Sidney streets on the South Side, residents have the chance to drop off those gently used items they've been stowing away.

"We hope to give a lot of materials a second use," said Sarah Alessio Shea, environmental educator coordinator for the Resources Council. "Part of the goal is to raise awareness. Nonprofits in the region take items throughout the year. ... Even if you can't make it to the event, you know the organizations are there."

The Resources Council coordinates other green events, such as Hard to Recycle, but there was a specific demand for a "reuse" event. A fine line of difference, reused items maintain their original purpose while recycled ones are broken down and made into a new product.

Through grant money, Resources Council members contacted nonprofit organizations they worked with in the past and reached out to new ones that specialized in reusing materials.

Ms. Alessio Shea said eight organizations are collecting materials including building materials, wheelchairs, crutches, furniture, clothing and bicycle parts.

Goodwill, one of the participating groups, focuses on collecting household items and clothing -- "anything you would give to a friend," said David Tobiczyk, vice president of marketing and development. He hopes this event will increase donations by making the public more aware of their options for unwanted items.

Another group, the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, specializes in reusing discarded building materials for arts and crafts purposes.

Erika Johnson, the interim executive director, said the center will set up an interactive workshop at the event so people can see firsthand how, for example, old funnels can be reused in an art sculpture.

She encouraged people to reuse before recycling, since recycling requires more energy and money.

"It's amazing to me how much stuff is out there. I never had a sense of the sheer volume," she said of the amount of materials the center collects. "[People] can see the value in their stuff but don't have the time or space for it. ... Reusing it will give it the life it's supposed to have."

The ReuseFest reflects a larger trend in Pittsburgh that has been building over the past decade.

Last year, Pittsburgh residents created 95,000 tons of trash while recyclables only added up to 15,000 tons, according to City of Pittsburgh recycling supervisor Shawn Wigle.

But the amount of collected recyclables has gone up since 2008, he said, and the amount of trash proportionally has decreased.

It was in 2008 that recycling "ramped up" in Pittsburgh when Mayor Luke Ravenstahl passed the Climate Action Plan. Aftyn Giles, the mayor's sustainability coordinator, said the plan "defined what we as a city wanted to do" in terms of going green.

Ms. Giles admitted there was still room for improvement, but said many buildings in Downtown were participating in the 2030 Challenge -- an initiative for buildings to become carbon-neutral by 2030. "We'll be seeing a very different Downtown in the next 20 years," she said.

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