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Publish Date: 4/15/2005

Group refuses to see items tossed

LONGMONT — Last year, Longmont residents threw away more than 150 tons of large items ranging from couches to vacuum cleaners.

Tons of those unwanted items were perfectly serviceable, and now city workers have found a solution to keep used but still useful items out of landfills.

They’re calling it REACH, for Reuse, Educate and Community Help, and it’s aimed at reducing trash and helping nonprofits earn a little extra money.

One chapter of Habitat for Humanity, for instance, sold for $150 a table with chairs diverted during one of the city’s recent large-item Stop-n-Drop collections.

The table and chairs were destined for the landfill, but instead they’re now gracing someone’s home. There was nothing wrong with the set, said REACH program co-creator Brad Larsen; it’s just that the original owners no longer wanted it.

“Unfortunately, we still live in a throwaway society,” said Larsen, a senior equipment operator for the city’s Public Works department. “People go out and buy a DVD player, so they don’t need a VCR player anymore. It’s easier for them to just throw it away. Nobody really thinks there’s people out there who can use them.”

To avoid competing with existing thrift stores, Larsen and co-creator Brice Lutz, an equipment operator for public works, recruited volunteers from nonprofits to scan the vehicles of drivers arriving at the city’s scheduled large-item drop-off. People hauling still-usable furniture, appliances and other goods are diverted from the line headed toward the trash containers.

Then, nonprofit volunteers provide tax-deduction forms to residents and collect the goods for resale at thrift shops. Two REACH collections have been held, and the plan is to eventually create a separate drop-off site.

In two collections so far, Larsen and Lutz filled four 30-cubic-yard roll-off containers with items that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.

“A good thing that really gets overlooked is vacuum cleaners. And old pots and plates can always be used,” Larsen said. “We want to be the go-between for the residents and the nonprofits. The residents just don’t know where to go to. It’s a hassle to figure out the phone number or find the right place.”

The city’s Stop-n-Drop collections are open to Longmont residents only, because opening it up to everyone would overwhelm workers, said Richard Lee, the city’s Solid Waste supervisor.

Lee said he’s proud of Larsen and Lutz for taking the initiative to solve a problem they saw.

Saturday morning, the city’s top officials will recognize Larsen and Lutz for their work, and kick off this year’s first REACH collection.

Alan Erickson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, said he’s excited about the chance to acquire items that would otherwise become trash.

He said his chapter must first open its store, planned for sometime in the next year.

“We’d be glad to participate, but we’ve got to get a store first,” Erickson said.

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at thughes@times-call.com.

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