NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Think about how much stuff—couches, coffee tables and more—come through the city in a given year.
While immeasurable, the number is no doubt high, in large part due to the presence of Rutgers University students. Each school year, they settle in off-campus neighborhoods, near the College Avenue and Cook campuses and beyond, and fill their apartments with, well, a lot of stuff.
But what happens to that furniture after graduation? For years, according to city officials, it all went to the curb after the move-out, blighting the neighborhood and eventually bombarding the landfill.
“Bulk items used to be piled so high you couldn't see the houses,” New Brunswick Public Works Director Steve Zarecki, who has worked for the city for 31 years, recently told City Hall.
Six years ago, New Brunswick partnered with Rutgers to do something about the issue—and in some cases repurpose the items for future use. The initiative, called Project Move Out, saw record participation and bulk pickup numbers this year, according to the city.
Under the program, Rutgers students use their ID cards to sign up for curbside removal of their bulk items. They may also drop off furniture, beds and appliances at certain spots, according to the city.
“Items are collected in an orderly and eco-friendly manner that helps to keep our City clean and neat,” Briana Suffy, a city employee, wrote on the municipal website.
In 2017, the number of students who registered almost doubled from that of last year, according to the city. Public works staffers hauled more than 1,000 tons away in trucks during the initiative. Rutgers, meanwhile, collected roughly 110 tons, up from its usual 70- or 80-something-ton totals, according to the city.
When the city gathers the items, they recycle and refurbish what they can. New Brunswick officials said that keeps “many items” out of landfills.