Since its inception in 2015, the Y-Toss program has diverted more than 100 tons of items from Virginia Tech’s waste system, according to Emily Vollmer, sustainability coordinator with Virginia Tech’s Office of Sustainability.

Y-Toss, coordinated by the YMCA at Virginia Tech, is one of the largest sustainability initiatives on the Blacksburg campus. Each spring, the program collects gently used items — everything from refrigerators to rugs — from residence halls across campus during student move-out days. 

Eight collection points are set up across the residential side of campus, with students, community members, and other volunteers aiding in collecting donated goods. Then, the YMCA team inspects everything collected, recycling broken or defective items while also cleaning and pricing usable items. Once fall move-in arrives, these items are made available at a reduced price to incoming students. 

“Sustainability is a major point of emphasis in all YMCAs,” said Ron Ovelgoenner, director of thrift shop operations for YMCA at Virginia Tech. 

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Y-Toss, specifically, centers around the focus of waste reduction. Most items used in residence halls are still useable or recyclable after the school year ends. While trash bins are an easy way to clear out unwanted goods, Y-Toss encourages students to reuse or repurpose items instead of sending them to the landfill.

This process also allows incoming students the opportunity to furnish their rooms at a reduced cost — meaning they can save money while also helping to save the planet. 

By helping keep unnecessary waste out of landfills, Y-Toss is helping push Virginia Tech toward the zero-waste campus by 2030 goal of the 2020 Climate Action Commitment. But Y-Toss’s overall impact isn’t exclusive to sustainability efforts. 

The funds received from Y-Toss sales each year help support YMCA student programs. These include the after-school programs at Blacksburg Middle School, Price’s Fork Elementary School, and Margaret Beeks Elementary School.

According to Vollmer, this year’s Y-Toss collection, held May 6-11, was the strongest on record with 10.8 tons of materials donated and all eight collection bins filled up.

Since 2015, the program engaged over 13,000 community volunteers and generated $60,000 to support numerous YMCA programs, she said.  

Y-Toss also contributed to Virginia Tech receiving the highest rating out of all Virginia and ACC schools from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System, an international rating system that looks at a university’s sustainability efforts across academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration.

“Any number of items kept out of the waste stream is a good thing,” said Ovelgoenner. “And eliminating 100 tons is a significant amount of aid to the planet.”

Written by Cyna Mirzai, a senior and an intern for Virginia Tech Marketing and Communications

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