Terri Ramirez at San Jose State University had a familiar issue:  lots of surplus, no storage space.  Every time a professor or administrator bought a new desk or chair or upgraded old equipment, there was nothing to do with the old except throw it out.  There was no place to put it, and no way to track it.  Which meant that a lot of perfectly good stuff was going in SJSU dumpsters.  A waste of good stuff; a waste of money.

Terri knew that any solution needed three parts.  First, she needed a way to identify and track SJSU’s surplus – what was it, where was it?  Second, she needed a market – someone who could use the surplus.  Third, she needed a way to get it off campus routinely, efficiently, and inexpensively.

Tracking:  Collaborating with SJSU’s Procurement Department, Terri developed a campus-wide reporting system.  Whenever staff or faculty have an item to be surplussed, they report it to the Furniture Reuse Program administrator (Rosario Micu), who maintains a running inventory of what and where it is.  This also allows Procurement, whenever possible, to match surplus against new purchasing requests, facilitating reuse of surplus right on the SJSU campus.

Market:  SJSU has worked with the Institution Recycling Network on several large cleanout projects, so she knew IRN could place SJSU’s surplus with its nonprofit network.

Moving:  It was inefficient and expensive to send maintenance staff to pick up one or two pieces of surplus at a time.  Terri came up with the simplest solution:  leave it where it is.  When faculty or staff report a surplus item to inventory through Rosario Micu, they are instructed to hold the item for pickup.  When enough pieces are logged to justify a cleanout, Terri calls IRN.  IRN conducts a quick site visit to review the surplus inventory and locations, and gives her a proposal for the cleanout cost.  IRN sends a crew of movers who make a quick and efficient sweep of the campus, and the surplus is dispatched immediately to an IRN nonprofit recipient.

Cost:  Terri has tracked the costs of SJSU’s program, and it’s less expensive than throwing surplus away.  Scheduling a crew to sweep the entire campus is a more cost-effective use of manpower than sending SJSU staff to pick up pieces of surplus in ones and twos.  And IRN trailers packed for reuse cost about one-third less than rolloffs filled for disposal.

The program went online in March 2011.  Since then, SJSU has captured more than 4,300 pieces of surplus in 21 cleanouts.  That’s 185 tons diverted from SJSU’s waste stream and added to the school’s reuse and recycling totals.  Before 2011, nearly all of these items would have ended up as trash.  The program is now averaging more than one pickup a month, so surplus doesn’t have a chance to pile up in offices and hallways.  It’s identified, and it’s gone.

Congrats to Terri, Rosario, and SJSU for a job well done!!

There’s a case study about Terri’s program at SJSU here.

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