Rummage in the Ramp expands footprint


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Although the sights, sounds, motions, and sometimes even smells of moving vans, young people hauling couches and large pieces of furniture down flights of stairs and out windows is a common picture for college towns toward the end of summer, one local undertaking has long-advocated for a more green approach.

And this year, from July 26 through Saturday, the city of Iowa City’s Rummage in the Ramp roughly weeklong recycling endeavor has enlisted the help of new partners: the owners of Iowa City apartment and rental properties.

Rather than throwing away unwanted items from apartments, college dorms, and homes, movers may donate them to the Rummage in the Chauncey Swan parking ramp. The items are then offered for sale to incoming students, low-income families, and any other individuals looking to score significant bargains on everything from books, couches, and TVs to handcrafted beer-pong tables and refrigerators.

Since its inception in 2007, the event has brought in more than 10,800 shoppers who have aided in the diversion of more than 133 tons of items from the Iowa City Landfill.

“The general feedback each year is, ‘Wow, this is crazy,’ ” said Jennifer Jordan, the Iowa City Landfill recycling coordinator. “It seems to be the trend that it gets bigger each year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we beat [last year’s] sales and donations.”

Although 2013 figures will not be available until the closing of the event on Saturday, Jordan said that in recent years, as the city has pulled in more University of Iowa student organizations and community organizations, popularity has only seemed to grow.

This year, 31 nonprofit agencies provide the on-site labor and split the profits from the eight-day event.

And that popularity, she said, translates in the physical appearance of fewer trashed items on Iowa City curbsides.

While clothes and couches always seem to account for the brunt of both the donation and purchasing ends, Jordan said many aspects separate this year’s inventory from prior occasions.

For example, fewer, but more high-quality desks have been donated alongside a glut of aging tube televisions.

On Wednesday morning alone, the city sent 32 non-working televisions to the landfill to be recycled.

The additional work by area apartment and rental-property companies, Jordan said, has furthered advocacy efforts. Representatives from Cruise Apartments, Westwinds Real Estate Services, Inc. and the Clark family’s Apartments Downtown conglomerate are among the participants.

“I think that landlords are starting to see value in [the program],” Jordan said, noting that many have chosen to hang up Rummage in the Ramp fliers in their buildings. They also have approached their tenants about donating the items before sending them to the curb or Dumpster heap. “It’s saving everybody money in the end, which is always a good thing.”

An official for Cruise Apartments told *The Daily Iowan* in an Wednesday interview that during this time of year, when old leases expire and new ones kick in, the company must bring hire additional waste-company vehicles just to keep up with the demand.

Contrary to standard trash pickup periods throughout the year, during the first week of apartment turnover, July 29 until Aug. 2, the company has Dumpsters emptied twice a week rather than once.

So what has been popular items the company has seen diverted from their buildings to Rummage in the Ramp?

It has mostly been large bulky items such as twin mattresses and bed frames.

For Mary Palmberg, the director of the Iowa City Free Lunch Program, and Peter Jordet, a UI School of Urban and Regional Planning graduate student, the Rummage stands as further indication of the local area’s commitment to improved sustainability and community improvement practices.

“I just think it’s just one more example of what the city is doing in working together to discern where the needs are in the community, to find creative solutions, and then do all the work of making it happen,” Palmberg said, noting that during the past six years the Free Lunch Program has received nearly $4,000 in donations.

“Seeing something in action always spawns more action,” Jordet said. “Doing this is important because it helps us see the little things that sometimes need to be done before the larger picture.”

For Palmberg, the program has also brought about more personal impacts, ones she said she will remember for years to come.

“One year for $5, I bought a whole bag that had a dance costume in it that I used for my granddaughter Ava that then resulted in a year’s worth of dance lessons,” she said.

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