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One man's trash is another man's treasure

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
Posted May 10, 2000

A Berkeley student kept nearly eight tons of campus lab equipment from ending up in the trash this spring, in the process, helping local high schools desperate for science supplies.

Carrie Libeu, an environmental science student, developed a plan to salvage reusable material being discarded from Barker Hall, which was emptied in preparation for seismic retrofitting construction.

The inventory included thousands of beakers, bottles and pipettes, as well as computers, centrifuges, an autoclave, vacuum pumps and hot plates.

Barker's building coordinators wanted the equipment to go to public high schools, since their science programs are often under-funded. But, because of construction deadlines, time was running short.

Libeu had only four days to contact science teachers from local schools and convince them to find their own trucks, travel to Berkeley and load the items themselves.

The response was good. High school instructors from around the Bay Area showed up in cars, trucks, vans and any other kind of vehicle they could find.

"It was like a garage sale," said Libeu of the harried scene at Barker's loading dock. "Everyone was rushing to get the best equipment before someone else snatched it up."

With the help of an assistant, Libeu weighed the items and used rolling carts to bring several floors of equipment down to the loading dock.

"I moved two tons of stuff myself one day," said Libeu. "We also helped load the items into the teachers' trucks."

Instructors from Tennyson High School in Hayward showed up and took almost one ton themselves, Libeu said. It turns out the school had not been running labs because they didn't have any equipment.

In all, the schools took three tons of equipment. Libeu was still left with five tons. But thanks to Barker's building coordinators, she got the deadline extended, which gave her time to contact several re-use agencies in the area about the items.

The Alameda Computer Resource Center, the East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use and the Tinker's Workshop took what was left, giving Libeu a grand total of eight tons.

Libeu, who said she was raised in a environmentally-conscious home, used this material exchange program as the topic for her senior project.

She will prepare a cost/benefit analysis report and submit the information to campus administrators.

"I want to convince the university that this is worth doing again," said Libeu. "Not only does it make ecological sense, it also benefits the community."

Libeu's efforts were assisted by Lisa Bauer, campus recycling coordinator. Bauer connected Libeu with Barker's building coordinators and secured funding for the project with a small grant from Alameda Waste Management. The agency wants to use Libeu's project as a model for others.

Bauer will use Libeu's information to create a template for building coordinators and administrators whose labs are being relocated.

After hearing of Libeu's project, the building coordinator of Stanley Hall, scheduled for seismic upgrades in the near future, expressed interest in setting up a similar program.

For information on campus material exchange programs, contact Bauer at 643-4612.



May 10 - June 6, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 33)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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