Rummage in the Ramp returns for 13th year

Rummage in the Ramp

Chauncey Swan Ramp — Thursday, July 25 through Saturday, Aug. 3

Iowa City’s Rummage in the Ramp takes over a section of the Chauncey Swan Ramp for 10 days every summer to collect and sell donated household items. — City Channel 4/City of Iowa City

There are many things that define Iowa City in the summer: festivals, street sales, slow-moving quiet afternoons. One of the least glamorous of these seasonal trends is the surge of movers in and out of dorms and apartments as the fall semester approaches. Unwanted items make their way out of living rooms and into dumpsters, or onto the curb to be claimed.

“Being that Iowa City is a university town, we are definitely in a unique location where we see a big movement of people during this time of year because we have a large lease turnover event where there’s people moving out, there’s people moving into apartments,” said Iowa City Recycling Coordinator Jane Wilch. “So with that movement of population in this community, we see a spike in the amount of waste generated.”

This situation led to the creation of another beloved summer tradition for Iowa City: Rummage in the Ramp. It was created to minimize the waste produced this time of year and promote sustainability in the community.

The 13th annual Rummage in the Ramp will be held on the second level of Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp July 25 through Aug. 3. Donors can drop items — including furniture, decor, books, clothing, kitchenware and electronics — at the ramp, or request large items be picked up within Iowa City limits for $16. The donated items are then sold for low fees, the vast majority under $20. Cash and credit are accepted.

The event brings together people leaving their residence who want to get rid of usable materials, and people moving in who are looking for low-cost furniture and decor. Besides the average college student, bargain shoppers and upcyclers in the community have supported Rummage in the Ramp over the last 12 years.

“I think we have a lot of people that are invested in the event, whether that be from a volunteer standpoint, donation or shopping standpoint, which is really wonderful,” Wilch said.

The event is made possible by roughly 200 volunteers from 32 organizations, including Iowa Humane Alliance, Free Lunch Program, Riverside Theatre, Shelter House, Young Life and Houses into Homes. Volunteers work in shifts at the ramp and on donation pick-ups in the area.

At the end of the event, the proceeds are divided among the volunteer groups. The first 12 years yielded a total of $189,123, or an average of $15,760 each year.

“They can use that money however they see fit to accomplish the mission of their organization,” Wilch said. “So the cool thing about it is that the money goes back to help all these groups that already do such wonderful work in the community already.”

Mary Palmberg has been volunteering with Rummage in the Ramp since their first event in 2007. She heard about the program from Jen Jordan, Iowa City’s former recycling coordinator, with whom Palmberg had worked in the past.

Palmberg said the choice to get involved was an obvious one.


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“For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in finding homes for things instead of letting them go to the landfill,” she said.

Palmberg says she enjoys being involved in all parts of Rummage. When she isn’t volunteering, she is perusing the tables for goods. One of her favorite finds is a doorstop that she estimates cost her 50 cents. She once purchased a pink ballet outfit for her granddaughter at Rummage on the Ramp, which sparked an interest for her granddaughter that led to a year of dance lessons.

“The bargain turned out not to be such a bargain, but it was great,” Palmberg said.

To further encourage upcycling, the Rummage Redux program is making a return this year. The public is invited to revamp a donated item and present it at a showcase on Friday, Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. at Chauncey Swan, where three $100 and three $50 prizes will be awarded to the best restorations, reinventions and re-adaptations.

“The objective here is for participants to purchase something at Rummage, to get creative with repairing or repurposing it, document how they go about getting creative with that item, and then come to the showcase to share their story,” Wilch explained.

Rummage in the Ramp is one of the ways Iowa City is reaching its sustainability goals. In 2007, it was awarded the Recycling Project of the Year by the Iowa Recycling Association.

Palmberg believes the 10-day event promotes a sustainable mindset in the community.

“They see people at Rummage in the Ramp, they see the city spearheading something like this and it sort of infects them with the idea … ‘What can I do to be on this bandwagon as far as keeping things out of the landfill and doing better things for the environment?’” Palmberg said.

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