This year in Wyoming, the city’s annual Junk Day was delayed until September 12 due to COVID-19 restrictions. It’s a day residents use as a reason to finally clean out their basements and garages and drag whatever they no longer want out to the curb.
The days before Junk Day often feature scrappers driving the city streets, salvaging items. Wyoming residents sometimes make an event of it, lighting their fire pits in their driveways to watch their neighbors hunt for treasures too.
Even with many items leaving town on the back of salvage trucks on that day, a good deal of the junk still goes straight to the landfill. On average, 100 tons of waste leaves Wyoming on that single Junk Day morning for the landfill, according to Terry Huxel, the City of Wyoming’s Public Works Director, at an additional cost to the city in recent years of $16,000-$18,000. In an effort to divert waste and save money, recent city council meetings have included discussions of the eventual elimination of Junk Day.
“It’s clear the community still has the need to dispose of old junk, and the fun of someone else’s trash becoming new treasures would be missed,” says Council member Sarah Stankorb Taylor. “So no matter what future decisions are made about Junk Day, the city is working to see what alternatives we might be able to create for some of the waste.”
Over the next two weeks the community is trying something new to see how much waste we can divert while still honoring residents’ need remove unwanted items from their homes. In advance of Junk Day, old items can be recycled through Freebox Free-For-All and Upcycle Day.
Over a thousand Wyoming residents already belong to Wyoming OH Freebox, a Facebook page where you can post a photo of an unwanted item and often very quickly find it a new home by another resident claiming it within the group. Items can be left outside on your porch for contactless pickup, and recipients are encouraged to sanitize their new finds just as they would anything they are bringing into the house during the pandemic.
Any Wyoming resident can join and share items one at a time, but one of the group’s most fun events, a Freebox Free-For-All, has been planned September 5-6 as a precursor to Junk Day to help people empty out their homes before sending usable items to the landfill. Usually Freeboxers post one item at a time and have to manage each of their posts; for Freebox Free-For-All, members can snap a photo of a large group of items and put them out for first-come, first-claimed pickup.
“Freebox was originally created to keep items with life left in them from unnecessarily piling up in the trash,” says Wyoming resident and Freebox admin, Helen McCormick. “You never know what kind of fun finds you will repurpose from your neighbors!”
Introducing Upcycle Day!
Then, on September 11 from 10am to 6pm, the day before Junk Day pickup, the city is hosting its first Upcycle Day. Thanks to partnerships with Reuse Center, Junk King, and Goodwill, residents will be able to drop off the following at the lot across from Gabby’s Café. Please wear your mask to drop off:
- Old doors
- Building Materials
- Armoires, Headboards, Mantles
- Scrap metal
- Electronics recycling
- Upholstered furniture
- Home goods
“It’s a great opportunity to come downtown, do your part to keep Wyoming sustainable, and then take your reward with a DORA beverage or stop at one of our local businesses,” notes Stankorb Taylor. “There will be music live on the Village Green in the evening as well. This is an opportunity to live up to the city’s Master Plan goals around sustainability—goals set by community members,” she adds. “As a city we have been celebrated as having the best waste diversion rate in the county for a city of our size.
“This is about the other R’s too,” says Stankorb Taylor. “Reduce. Reuse. And seeing where else we can improve and make sure we’re not wasting the resources we do have. In a year like this, when so many people have had to sacrifice a lot to pay their taxes, we’re expected to be careful with every dollar we spend. I also know how much pride Wyoming takes in its ethos of sustainability. This is about being mindful on both counts.”
As to the benefits of donating over junking, Patrick Walker, a member of the city’s Environmental Stewardship Commission, a master upcycler and executive director of the Applied Arts Center of Cincinnati, says there are definite upsides.
“Donating versus junking really ensures we are maximizing our community’s resources. Your junk could be helping your neighbors here in Hamilton County, stimulating the economy instead of going to a landfill,” he says. “Our partners for Upcycle Day—Junk King, Reuse Center, and Goodwill—are essentially mega upcyclers. They take unwanted items, salvage the resources from them, and ultimately create jobs,” adds Walker. “The side benefit is that it keeps these resources safe and available for the salvagers, pickers, and craftsmakers.”
Lastly, Upcycle Day, Freebox and Junk Day aren’t your only chances to clean out your house of unwanted items. “The city’s contract with Rumpke entitles each resident to dispose of one large item per week,”notes Public Works Director Terry Huxel. “If we, as a city, utilize this existing weekly service the city could realize an annual cost savings of $16,000.00-$18,000,” he adds. “Anything we can do to keep any of the city’s waste steam out of the landfill is better for the city’s environmental footprint and our budget.”