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I Was Appalled By the Wastefulness': College Student Starts Business Recycling Dorm Fridges

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"I’m not in business just to make money. I believe entrepreneurship and businesses are a way to positively impact the world."

Image source: Press Herald's Twitter

A college student who was appalled at the dorm furnishings his roommates were leaving behind his freshman year has started a booming business recycling mini refrigerators.

Mitch Newlin, 22, of Brunswick, Maine, goes to Bates College, a private, liberal arts college in Lewiston, Maine, about 35 miles north of Portland. He buys dorm refrigerators at the end of the school year and sells them to incoming students the next year.

"I was appalled by the wastefulness," Newlin said, recalling couches, fridges and other furnishings left behind by his Bates classmates, according to the Portland Press Herald. "People spend, like, $300 on dorm room furnishings. There had to be a way to prevent this stuff from being thrown out and recycled to a new owner."

Thus, the idea for Newlin's company, Re-Fridge, was born. Newlin began by asking fellow Bates students which items they would be most willing to sell at the school year's end to avoid waste — as well as a $50 fine from the college's administration for failing to completely empty their dorm rooms. Refrigerators proved to be at the top of the list, especially if someone would be willing to pick them up and remove them.

"Fifty people approached me and said, 'Here, take my fridge,'" Newlin told the Herald.

Newlin began paying the students between $15 and $30 for the refrigerators and removing them to his stash kept in his parents’ basement, the Herald reported. He then contacted the incoming freshman class of 2019 to inform them of the used dorm refrigerators in stock that he would be willing to sell and deliver to their dorm rooms. The fridges quickly sold out.

Since then, Newlin's company has branched out to a total of 17 colleges in Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts. The young entrepreneur expects to collect more than $70,000 in revenues this year.

"I was surprised no one was already doing this. It makes you realize how poorly designed the system is," Newlin told the Herald. "I’m not in business just to make money. I believe entrepreneurship and businesses are a way to positively impact the world."

Now a junior majoring in economics, Newlin hires students at the other colleges to pick up and deliver the refrigerators, capitalizing on the convenience to the customers.

"It was harder to be more convenient," said Kate McNally, a Bates junior who bought a small fridge from Newlin last fall. "I ordered it, he texted me and then brought it right over. After I thought about it, I realized it’s great that I’m doing something good for the environment and helping a classmate out, but really, it was all about the convenience."

Follow Kathryn Blackhurst (@kablackhurst) on Twitter

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