Sustainability may be a recent buzzword, and economic hard times a new reality, but one Oregon State University department has quietly been saving the university money and keeping waste out of the landfill for years.
OSU Surplus, under the direction of Surplus Property Supervisor Patsy Hendricks, deals with the surplus items of every department on campus, as well as managing surplus for a number of other state agencies, all from its small facility on 13th and A Streets, just across the railroad tracks from the heart of campus. All unwanted OSU property must go through the Surplus Property department to be disposed, and much of it goes back out to campus, as one person’s unwanted desk is another person’s treasure. The Surplus Program markets the items in different ways to ensure the owning department gets the best value from the items.
When an OSU department no longer has need for a certain item, say a file cabinet or a table in a conference room, they contact OSU Surplus, which arranges a time to pick up the unwanted item. The furniture, computer or other pieces of OSU property are then catalogued and priced, usually at a bargain basement amount, and then put out in the warehouse, where other OSU departments, state and local governments and 501c3 non-profits can purchase them.
“We have everything imaginable a department may need,” she said. And then some.
Once a week, Surplus also opens its doors to the public, and usually has a line of people waiting to buy everything from bicycles to bookshelves, motorcycles to exercise equipment.
OSU Surplus Property has sold everything from farm equipment to houses, alpacas to horses. One of Hendricks’ most memorable sales was a collection of 106 taxidermy animals donated to the OSU Foundation.
“The taxidermy animals were impressive,” Hendricks said. “Animals from all over the world.” Sale proceeds went to a scholarship fund.
Hendricks also sells surplus items for around 30 state agencies including police departments, Benton County, City of Albany, Portland Community College and local school districts.
“We get quite a variety,” Hendricks said. “A few of the strangest things come from the police departments.”
All items received from the police departments must go through a competitive bidding process, either through on-line audction sites such as Ebay, Labx or their own sealed bid process. They also offer some items in spot-bid auctions during public sales at the warehouse.
OSU Surplus is completely self-sustaining, and receives no general fund money. Surplus Property keeps the first $40 of the sale, and then the owning department receives a percentage of anything over the price of the item. Hendricks estimates that departments received approximately $300,000 last year from the sale of their unneeded items.
Even items which aren’t in good enough shape for resale find new purpose. Metal is sold for scrap, wood is chipped up for landscaping use or sent to Allied Waste, and other items are sold or recycled through various entities.
“We very seldom have our dumpsters full,” she said.
Hendricks has a few items she’d like departments to keep in mind. When surplusing old file cabinets, try to find the keys that accompany them. And try to describe in detail what you’re turning in to Surplus That’s helpful when discarding scientific equipment that Hendricks might not be able to identify.
Safety is also important. Needles, liquids in bottles, items that may contain asbestos and refrigerator incubators must go through Environmental Health and Safety, not Surplus.
She also wants to remind departments that are getting rid of computers to completely clear their hard drives before they turn in their computers, for their own protection and that of the university.
OSU Surplus is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Wednesday mornings, when the crew prepares for their weekly sale. Faculty and staff can drop by at 644 S.W. 13th St. at any time during open hours to browse.
For more information, see http://surplus.oregonstate.edu/
~ Theresa Hogue