Surplus First

Does your College or University have a Surplus First Policy?

Having a Surplus First policy can be extremely beneficial to any college or university striving to achieve sustainability or zero-waste goals.  What is a Surplus First policy? Great question!  Many institutions of higher education, like our friends at the University of Pittsburgh, have a campus-wide Surplus First Policy.

Surplus First Policies: mandate that all departments within the institution send any assets they would like to dispose of to the department responsible for surplus property disposition.

Items that are no longer being used are communicated to the Surplus Department which may then coordinate their delivery to a warehouse or storage facility.  A Surplus First policy can help colleges and universities reduce the amount of landfill waste they produce and ensure that items are properly cleaned, broken down, recycled, redistributed or sold to recoup some of the funds used to purchase them.

Surplus Departments can be self-sufficient, receiving little to no funding from their institutions.  The sale of items or their parts enables the surplus department to continue their operation, paying employees, purchasing supplies, and advertising the items they can sell. If items like broken electronics are being thrown away instead of sent to surplus, not only is the university increasing its amount of landfill waste but also breaking environmental laws and keeping the surplus department from capitalizing on an important opportunity.  Broken electronics, also referred to as E-Waste, contain metals that can be organized and then sold. Sending these items to surplus allows trained employees or volunteers to sort these parts and sell them to vendors like a trusted smelter.

Communication is king and a Surplus First policy helps create a conversation around surplus, sustainability, and zero-waste missions.  To really make an impact takes teamwork.  A Surplus Fist policy brings many departments together, and engages them in this conversation. Students are also brought into the communication and are able to take part in the mission.  Much more than a piece of paper or ‘just another policy,’ a Surplus First policy is a key piece of the sustainability puzzle for Colleges and Universities.

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