In the past, the only thing you could do with polystyrene (styrofoam) take-out food containers, packing material, etc., was to just toss it in the garbage. Thanks to Oneonta's Otsego ReUse Center, a program of the ARC Otsego, you can just bring it to the Oneonta transfer station or the Otsego ReUse Center and it will be recycled and repurposed.

The Otsego ReUse Center began recycling polystyrene back in 2019 after acquiring a special machine that presses the foam material into dense cubes. According to the Otsego ReUse Center, they have collected as much as 9 tons of the material to be recycled which is very impressive! Check out the video below of staff using the densifier machine that presses the polystyrene into bricks...

The center also keeps all kinds of great, gently used items out of the trash, things that people just don't want anymore. I took a recent trip to the ReUse Center on Dwayne St. (off of River St.) in Oneonta and honestly, there's almost nothing they DON'T have.

TSM Oneonta
TSM Oneonta

Bill Hardy, the center's manager, told me that with the ReUse Center open 7 days a week, every day, new items are coming in. With inventory always changing, it's not easy to keep up with making sure everything is organized but between staff and volunteers, they all do a great job and you won't believe the treasures you can find there.

The best part is that this program is a great way for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, those served by the ARC Otsego, to find meaningful and enjoyable jobs at the center to do. Add to that, the wonderful benefit of keeping tons and tons of usable items out of the landfill and you have a major win-win.

Because this program has been such a success since its inception, the Otsego ReUse Center has expanded its space with the addition of the former Moose Lodge building, which is right around the corner from the center. The new building will house all of the home building materials that will be for sale, while the original buildings will showcase home goods, furniture, and many other items.

The ReUse Center needs volunteers who can help in any way with the moving of materials into the new building. They could also use volunteers who would like to help in other ways at the center. If you are interested in volunteering, you can contact Bill Hardy by email at or send a message through the Otsego ReUse Center Facebook page.

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