Surplus Goods at U of W

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Reuse is not an unknown concept, but remains an under explored aspect of our society. While investigating topics for ERS 285: Greening the Campus, our group was interested in pursuing the idea of reuse on campus. We discovered that a surplus system existed at the University of Waterloo which promotes the reuse of items. We decided to examine this system by evaluating the flow of goods through Surplus and determining its level of sustainability.

Reuse is not a new concept. It has existed in various manifestations throughout our society. There are two basic types of reuse: formal and informal. Formal reuse refers to operations that exist based on the aim of working towards sustainability. There are several communities that currently operate successful reuse centers in the area. Within Waterloo, there is a construction reuse center that redistributes construction material and equipment back into the community; there is also a proposal to establish a Waterloo reuse center. Informal reuse is a means of reuse where the priority is not necessarily sustainability. For example the Goodwill, a reuse-based operation, aims to help low income individuals. Examples of other informal reuse type operations include, the Kitchener-Waterloo Pennysaver, garage sales, and used car dealerships.

The goal of reuse is to keep items out of the landfill and the bluebox. It is common in our society to say "I hate to throw this out, but..?". Reuse facilities provide the answer to this question. It is a simple concept; reuse takes items that one person no longer has a use for, and allows someone else who needs the item the opportunity to use it. Simultaneously, this reuse complements the reduction of goods by decreasing the amount of items that need to be purchased new. We wanted to explore these notions of reusing and reducing on campus. Recycling is already prevalent throughout the university. There are blueboxes virtually everywhere on campus for bottles, cans, and paper, etc. We were interested in the flow of items which could be used more efficiently if alternatives to recycling them were pursued. Our aim was to take the success of recycling one step further towards reusing. Reusing and reducing at the source are concepts that bring us closer to achieving sustainability because they deal with lifestyle behavioural changes.

The purpose of ERS 285 and WATgreen projects are to examine current systems on campus in an effort to increase awareness of environmental issues and the level of sustainability. We concluded that evaluating the role of Surplus Goods in the reuse of items would coincide with this goal of increasing awareness and sustainability. Collecting and analyzing data concerning the flow of goods will allow us to draw conclusions and make recommendations to improve the system.

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Sustainability seeks to ensure the future viability of the global village. It can be compared to the native concept of not using more than what one needs in order to provide for those in future generations. Sustainability is a continuous conservation process in which the environment of this planet will provide for its future citizens, human and otherwise. The world is continually changing, therefore, sustainability is a progression that never ends, a constant evolutionary process.

So how does this fit in with Surplus Goods? Surplus Goods is part of the larger University of Waterloo system. In seeking to ensure that the university is sustainable, each system within it must be examined in order to discover the positives and negatives of that system as it pertains to sustainability. Making smaller systems sustainable contributes to the overall sustainability of the university. The University of Waterloo would then be a sustainable part of the community. The end result, ideally, is that the sustainable global village is realized.

In the context of this project sustainability refers to environmental, social and economic viability. The system must be environmentally viable to be maintained. Without the environment, social and economic factors cannot exist. Environmentally viable involves any action that promotes the reduction of waste on campus. This focuses on the concepts of reduce, reuse, and recycle. Social viability, nested within the environment, addresses whether the system is accepted as beneficial and a necessary component of the university by the faculty, staff, students, and the wider community. Economic viability fits in with the environmental aspect also. The University must generate enough economic revenue to remain operational. Surplus by reusing items saves money because the University is not required to buy them new and generates money by selling items and recycling; this money is redistributed back to university departments.

First, in order to determine sustainability, we must understand the level of knowledge people (faculty, staff and students) have of the surplus system. Surplus Goods is a department which is open to everyone on campus. One component for Surplus Goods to function sustainably is that people must understand how the system works, know where it is and how it relates to them. For example, if a student knows only that the system exists but does not know that they may go anytime and buy something from Surplus, they are not using the system. The possibility for reuse, and thus environmental and economic viability, is reduced with each person not aware of their full access.

For Surplus Goods to be sustainable it must be easily accessible. If it is not accessible, it will not be used. If it is not used, it is not successfully reusing items and thus, is not sustainable. This also ties in with people's awareness. If potential users are not aware of the system, where it is or how it works, it is automatically less accessible to them.

A crucial point in determining sustainability is looking at the success of Surplus Goods in terms of its intended goal. The main function of Surplus Goods is to send items back into the system. Looking at patterns of use, will indicate the sustainability of the system, as it will indicate if it is environmentally and economically viable.

In order to be sustainable, a system must ensure that the environment will continue to provide for future generations. The University can not persist if items are constantly purchased new, used and subsequently thrown away. This leads to a one way flow of items through the system. Materials are leaving the system and thus not being preserved for future use. By examining where university items are ending up, we can determine if goods are cycling back into the university system or are simply being disposed of, thus ending their life span. By examining diversion, we will determine whether items are being bought from Surplus, rather than new. This will help us discover if the system is environmentally and economically viable.

Click here for an in-depth look at our perception of UW's future with regards to sustainability. sustainability

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Our main objective in carrying out this study is to perform an audit of the Surplus Goods Section of the Central Stores Department in East Campus Hall. For the purpose of this project, we had to decide what would make Surplus Goods sustainable. The criteria we developed to determine the level of sustainability of Surplus Goods are:

  3. USE

By integrating these four criteria a more complete picture of Surplus Goods can be developed and it can be determined if it is functioning sustainably. If Surplus meets these criteria then it is contributing to the sustainability of the University of Waterloo and working towards achieving a sustainable global village.

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As Environment and Resource Studies students coming into ERS 285, we wanted to evaluate a system on campus, determine its level of efficiency and sustainability, and if needed, discover a method to remediate the situation. Essentially, we wanted to be a factor in furthering sustainability in some aspect on campus.

With this idea in the back of our minds, we commenced our project with an initial perception of the Surplus Goods system on campus before we even began any type of investigation or information gathering. As displayed in Figure 1, we visualized the system by following a widget, which is any generic item, through its path of use. We expected the system to be very simply laid out: the widget gets used, and if it ends up in Surplus, will most likely just collect dust in storage. Then after an extended period of time, the widget may get recycled, landfilled, or perhaps, a few items of furniture may be bought and reused.

Upon further investigation, we discovered that the reality was quite different from our initial perception. Surplus Goods is well used by university and community members and many items that come into Surplus are diverted away from the landfill and redirected into the campus system (See Figure 2). Once a new item enters the campus, it becomes part of the University inventory. It is used by the department and finished with.

Inventory policy requires that departments send items they no longer have use for to Surplus Goods. They contact Ken Moody, who currently administers Surplus Goods. Within a week, the widget is picked up and taken to Surplus. At this point, if the department has not stated a resale price on their invoice, Ken inspects the item and, based on the age, condition, and level of technology, makes a decision as to whether it may have any use to other departments and determines a price for the widget.

The widget then enters Surplus, where items are sent once they are no longer needed by the department which originally purchased the item. Once at Surplus items are recycled if they are recyclable or contain precious metals. Many items are sold during the term or at the quarterly sales, which are held every few months to clear the build-up of goods in Surplus, and many of the goods are redirected into the campus system. Surplus is open to faculty, staff, students, and the general public. However, if there are certain items that have the potential to be useful to the University, departments will have the first opportunity to purchase them. Often these will be computer equipment and Ken Moody will advertise them in the Gazette newspaper, stating that they are for faculty/staff purchases only. If an item has been deemed of no use on campus, Ken then gives off-campus organizations such as the Waterloo County Board of Education the next opportunity to purchase it. This entire process enables the university to keep track of all university owned property leaving the system and ensures surplus goods are disposed of in the most economical means available.

Currently, there is no official requirement for departments to check with Surplus Goods before deciding to purchase a new widget.

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Once familiar with how the Surplus system functions, the next step of the project was to evaluate this system. We based our evaluation on the question; does Surplus function in a sustainable manner? This question complements the WATgreen program goal of examining sustainability on the university campus.

In formulating an approach on how to carry out our evaluation, we began with our question (See Figure 3) . From this, a set of criteria were established to answer the question. These criteria include awareness, accessibility, diversion and use.

Awareness distinguishes between those who realize that there is a Surplus system and those who do not. This also involves the degree of awareness including such factors as where it is, and how it operates. Accessibility, closely integrated with awareness, addresses the knowledge of one's access to surplus, the relative ease in using Surplus, and the equity of access to Surplus Goods.

Diversion focuses upon the reallocation of resources. This examines if items are being diverted away from the landfill and how. Items can be purchased by a department, sold to faculty, staff, students, or someone in the wider community, be recycled, or sent to the landfill. Use considers who is using Surplus, why or why not, how often, what type of items are being sent to Surplus and what items are being purchased.

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5.1 What We Did

We generated a set of questions that would determine Awareness/Accessibility and Diversion/Use(See Figure 3) . We took one further step back and listed all sources necessary to answer these questions. Sources include: 1) a series of interviews, 2) Surveys - faculty/staff and students, and 3) Surplus Records.

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5.1.1 Interviews

Interviews were conducted with Ken Moody, head of Surplus. Ken was interviewed with respect to how Surplus operates. Bob Elliott, Assistant Provost of University Affairs, oversees all systems on campus and was interviewed to get another view on how Surplus functions. Jim Natran, Purchasing Officer, was interviewed to get a greater understanding of university purchasing procedures. Linda Connolly, Environmental Studies Administrative Assistant, handles all purchasing for the Environmental Resource Studies department. We wanted to know how the department goes about purchasing and disposing of items.

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5.1.2 Surveys

We used the method outlined in Enjoying Research (page 59) in order to obtain the sample sizes necessary for our surveys. We first went to the Registrar's Office and Personnel to find the student and faculty/staff populations at the University of Waterloo. The numbers are 6073 and 3389 respectively. In order to calculate the estimate of population proportions, we conducted pilot surveys of 20 people for each of the two surveys. Both pilot surveys were done randomly and the students were approached in person. Faculty/staff pilots were conducted by telephone. Nineteen of the 20 students surveyed and 16 of the 20 faculty/staff surveyed were unaware of the existence of Surplus Goods on campus (See Pilot Results). These results led us to use an estimate of the populations proportion of 0.90 for students and 0.85 for faculty/staff. These estimated proportions along with the population sizes of both categories indicated that in order to achieve a 95% confidence level, sample sizes of 135 for students and 179 for faculty/staff were necessary.

Students surveys were done verbally. We wanted to know if students were aware of Surplus and if so, did they realize they had access to it. A random sample of 163 students representing all faculties on campus were taken. We decided to approach a minimum of 30 students each. We selected survey areas where large numbers of students gather from different faculties. These areas included the Dana Porter Library, the Davis Center Library, Needles Hall, the Campus Center, and various Food outlets. The survey consisted of three questions: 1) What faculty are you in? ; 2) Are you aware of Surplus Goods? ; and 3) Do you know if you have access to Surplus or not?

Faculty/Staff surveys were passed out in the following buildings. The amount of surveys completed per building depended on the number of individuals present who would fill out the survey. One hundred and seventy-three surveys were conducted representing all faculties on campus. The questions on the survey were formulated to help us determine the level of Use/Diversion and Accessibility/Awareness. (See Faculty/Staff Surveys).

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5.1.3 Surplus Records

Surplus records were examined from January 1 to June 30. These records provided a number of data variables from which to draw conclusions. The records told us what items are most often sent to and bought from Surplus. From these records, we could also determine where the peak flows occurred between the period of January 1, 1995 - June 30, 1995. By examining the records, we gathered an idea of the departments that most often send items to Surplus. Some of the records contained notes that indicated where the item ended up, for example sold at the sale or scrapped. Although we could not draw definite conclusions from this particular statistic, it along with looking at the Surplus records in general, helped us to get a feel for how the system works on a day to day basis.

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6.1 Surveys

6.1.1 Student Survey

We interviewed 163 students with representatives from all faculties, giving a confidence level of at least 95%. To our surprise, we learned that only 12 % (See Table 1 Below) of students have heard of the Surplus Goods section of Central Stores, most of whom found out about it by walking past East Campus Hall.

We also determined that only two per cent of students are aware that they have full access to Surplus (See Table 2 Below). This indicates that the awareness of students is very low and needs to be raised in order for the Surplus Goods system to function more sustainably.

None of the students surveyed in the faculties of Environmental Studies and Applied Health Sciences were aware of Surplus Goods. It should be noted however that only 12 students were surveyed from Applied Health Studies. As a point of interest, we found out that 35% of Science students surveyed were aware of the existence of Surplus Goods. This was, by far, the most knowledgeable faculty.

It may have been useful for us to ask students who do know about Surplus if they have used it, why or why not and how often. This may have helped to reveal barriers to use and therefore indicate areas where improvements can be made. A future project could determine if use has increased due to our study or due to the implementation of any of our suggestions.

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6.1.2 Faculty and Staff Survey

Because it was summer, it was more difficult to catch faculty and staff to fill out our questionnaire. We were not able to obtain a proportionate number of surveys from each faculty in relation to their size. Through much persistence, we managed to gather 173 completed faculty and staff surveys, which was only six short of our required total for a 95% confidence level. Thus our results are still reliable.(See Survey Results).

Two thirds of the staff/faculty population are aware of Surplus Goods (See Table 3). This statistic is higher than that for the students but still seems low considering that Surplus Goods can be valuable for both work-related as well as personal use. Most of those who are aware of Surplus found out about it through the Gazette, co-workers, supervisors, or word-of-mouth. Of those aware, 65% knew about the quarterly sales and only 42% have ever sent things to Surplus. These numbers indicate that an even smaller proportion of the faculty/staff population understand how Surplus Goods works.

Table 3

Data was also collected to determine the extent to which the faculty/staff use Surplus Goods. We found out that only 7% use it more frequently than once a year. Perhaps this is because not many people have required or disposed of many items since their arrival at the University. This is a very high proportion and it causes us to wonder if items are being purchased new which could be obtained used through Surplus.

We also wondered how often Surplus Goods is checked by faculty and staff when items are required and found that 53% of those aware of Surplus Goods have either never checked it or have only checked it once or twice while employed at U of W. Twenty-seven per cent said that they check it 50% of the time or less and 12% always check before purchasing an item new. We believe that this 12% would increase drastically if it was policy to check Surplus before purchasing a new item.

We were curious as to why those who were aware of Surplus did not use it. The largest response (41%) was that purchasing or disposing of items was not their responsibility. Obviously, these people are unaware that they have access to Surplus on a personal level and are not restricted to using it for work purposes only. Many are aware of the existence of Surplus Goods but unaware of its location, when the sales are, or what is sold there. The responses from the survey indicated that people generally viewed Surplus as a work related entity rather than a place where items could be obtained for personal use. This demonstrates a lack of understanding of how the system woks and who it serves. The results of our survey demonstrated that many people were willing to purchase used items, yet this was not reflected in the responses we received regarding the specific use of Surplus. It may also have been useful for us to have made a distinction in our survey between staff and faculty. This would have provided us with a clearer understanding of usage patterns of the two different groups and therefore given us the ability to make more insightful and specific recommendations in this regard.

The following statements were also responses to this question:

Others responded with interesting comments including:

These comments show that although some people are aware of Surplus Goods, for some reason they choose not to use it to its full potential. This may be due to a lack of awareness of the Surplus Goods system or due to a choice in lifestyle. The first may be relatively easy to remediate, but the latter requires a change in behavioural patterns which may be difficult to achieve.

When asked what is done with items that are lying around, 48% of those who are aware of Surplus said that they would send it there and 46% said that they would give it to someone else in the department to use. It should be noted that many responded to both of these answers. Of those who are unaware of Surplus, 56% would give it to someone else in their department, 24% would just leave it sitting, and 4% even admitted that they would take it home. Perhaps items that are left sitting could be of some use to faculty or staff in another area on campus. One good point to make here is that very few (2%) said that it would be sent to the landfill, thus things are definitely being diverted.

Of all those surveyed most said that when something is no longer of use to them, they leave it to sit around for one to six months before getting rid of it. An interesting point is that 41% of those surveyed said that this was an area that did not apply to them. When asked about purchasing preferences (see Figure 4), staff and faculty displayed a preference for new computer equipment that was nine times greater than for used equipment. This shows that computers become obsolete quickly and that the sale of used computers should be directed more towards students. Surprising to us, we found out that more people preferred used furniture slightly over new furniture. This proves that there is a definite market for used furniture and the Surplus Goods area of Central Stores is a great way to obtain it.

This final section of faculty/staff survey involved the use of e-mail and the internet by faculty and staff members. We discovered that 86% of staff/faculty have access to e-mail and 92% of those check it at least once a day. We also found out that 80% have internet access and that 73% check it weekly or more. This indicates that using e-mail and the internet could be an easy way to increase the awareness, accessibility, and use of Surplus Goods.

Through our study we found that there are generally one or two people within each department who are responsible for making out the surplus declarations. It may have been useful to put a question in our survey asking the level of responsibility of the respondents for sending items to surplus. This would have given us a clearer picture of who is using Surplus even though it is not their responsibility. It may also have been useful to have a survey which was directed specifically at those who were responsible for sending items to Surplus Goods. This could have given us some direct feedback from those who use Surplus the most.

Though we did not seek out the people responsible for purchasing items within each department, it may have been useful to our study if we had. By surveying those responsible for purchasing we could have determined the level of thought Surplus is given when purchasing decisions are being made. It could have indicated whether some departments have their own policy for checking the Surplus in order to save the department much needed dollars or whether some departments disregard the Surplus entirely when making purchasing decisions.

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6.2 Surplus Records

After completing an in-depth six month (January 1, 1995 - June 31, 1995) study of the Surplus records we became aware of several facts. We first wanted to determine what types of items are entering and leaving Surplus. Items were grouped into six main categories: computer, furniture, science and technical, office supplies, odds and ends and miscellaneous (click here for definition of categories). Odds and ends included items such as cassettes, light fixtures, and shelving. Due to the nature of the items, the numbers of goods appearing to come into the system over the six month span was greatly inflated. For example, 137 light fixtures and 400 cassettes were included in the odds and ends category. Because of the vast differences in comparability of items, this category was left out of the conclusions. Miscellaneous items mainly included appliances and vehicles. Due to the relative insignificance of the numbers that this category was made up of, it was also left out of the final calculations. This left us with four main categories. Of these, computer equipment and furniture are the two most popular in and out items. Computers make up the greatest fraction of goods coming in while the greatest fraction leaving Surplus include furniture items (See graph of flow of goods). This implies, as did our faculty/staff survey, that there is a definite market for used furniture and that used computers are more difficult to sell. Furniture items are more likely to have a greater return value for the university as well. A computer system sent from the Chemistry department had an original cost of $100 000 with a surplus value of zero dollars. In contrast, a metal bookcase sent from the Office of Research was originally $80.00 and had a surplus value of $20.00.

When looking at a monthly breakdown of January, March and June (See graph of monthly flow)we can see the variable patterns in the use of Surplus. Many items enter and leave Surplus Goods during the month of January. This could be because January is the beginning of one term and the end of another. Departments are likely clearing up and organizing their offices during this time. In March we noticed that fewer items entered Surplus but a very large number of items left. This was more than likely, in part, the result of the Surplus sale which was held in March. This statistic proves that the sales are an effective means of diverting items from the landfill and clearing out the Surplus Goods area. Also, March is the fiscal and school year end, signifying a time when departments want to use up any remaining money left in their budgets. In June, we noticed a decline in both items entering and leaving the system. This can be explained by the slow summer months when many people are taking holidays and fewer students, faculty, and staff are on campus.

We were also interested in which departments are sending and buying items from Surplus. Records were not available to tell us which departments were obtaining items from Surplus. Nor was there a consistent record kept of how much was landfilled and recycled. We discovered the following breakdown of senders: (See Table 4 Below).

Table 4


Of all items sent after December 31, 1994 until June 30, 1995:

University Departments sent 26%

Engineering sent 21%

University Services sent 13%

Math sent 12%

Environmental Studies sent 10%

Science sent 9%

Arts sent 7%

Applied Health Studies sent 2%

It is apparent that university departments and services send a substantial amount to Surplus. The Engineering Faculty contributes the most items and is followed in order by Math, Environmental Studies, Science, Arts, and Applied Health Studies. A detailed breakdown is provided of what each department sent to surplus from January 1st to June 30th, 1995.

Another limitation that constricted our study was due to the limited records concerning exactly where items go when they leave the system. In order to determine use, we wished to examine the in and out flow of goods. We were able to obtain the in flow through the Surplus records, however, outflow posed a problem. We discovered that there was no record of exactly where items go from Surplus once they are sold. To compensate, we acquired the inventory books from Surplus Goods. From these, the amount that left the system was totaled by adding the number of items that were removed from the books from one month to the next. By doing this we were able to acquire a general outflow (See Table 5 Below), but could not conclude how many items were actually going to the landfill, being recycled, sold at the sales or were being diverted back on campus.

Often items were marked in the records as "scrapped" and did not specify if this meant it was thrown out or recycled. Also, sometimes the resale amount was listed in the records but other times, even though the item would be crossed out as sold, the dollar value would still be marked as zero. When things were listed as sold, sometimes they were listed as sold at the surplus sale or, once in a while, the department or off-campus organization, i.e.. The Waterloo County Board of Education, who bought the item would be recorded. However, this practice was not consistent.

Further, in determining the flow of goods, we also wished to examine purchasing records to determine what items were bought new that could have been purchased through Surplus. We were advised against this however from a number of sources, mainly Ken Moody and Jim Natran. They indicated that purchasing did not have this information, it was kept at Financial Services. We were then advised that although Financial Services had this information it was not kept in a format that we would be able to access and draw any conclusions from. In addition, we would not have been able to compare purchasing patterns to the items in Surplus during that time. We decided that rather than pursuing this futile path, we would rely on our interviews (i.e. comments from Jim Natran on purchasing habits), as well as our faculty/staff questionnaire. So, although we have an indication of purchasing preferences, we can not make any definite conclusions about what is purchased new that may have been in Surplus at the time.

It would have been helpful if the Surplus records included all the above information. The records should be consistent in the information they provide. We would especially have appreciated a column in the records which stated how items were distributed out of Surplus and if sold, who the item was bought by. Because we did not have this information, we were unable to evaluate our Use/Diversion criteria fully.

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6.3 Interviews

Each of our interviews provided valuable information in determining how Surplus Goods functions.

Ken Moody, head of Surplus Goods, first described to us how the system works for faculty and staff, which allowed us to draw our system diagram (refer to Figure 2). He then told us that anyone has access to Surplus at any time (including faculty/staff outside of work, students and community members). Ken indicated that students probably do not realize this. The level of awareness of Surplus was demonstrated through our student and faculty/staff surveys by the number of respondents that were not even aware of its existence, particularly students.

Ken confirmed what we had discovered in examining the net monthly outflow of goods from Surplus; that the public quarterly sales are extremely successful in disposing of goods that are no longer of use to the University (Refer back to Table 4). Although many of these goods go off campus, they are being diverted from the landfill, which is a crucial factor in determining environmental sustainability. Jim Natran, Purchasing Officer, and Bob Elliott, Associate Provost of University Affairs agreed with Ken concerning the success of the sales. Jim commented, as did Ken, that many people line up at least an hour in advance and the line up stretches "around the building and down Philip Street. Bob Elliott pointed out that these sales are the economically and administratively simplest ways of dealing with items that are declared surplus.

Linda Connolly, Administrative Assistant for Environmental Studies, confirmed that the departments function within the system as Ken had portrayed. However, she indicated another side to the system that was previously not evident. Linda relayed that although she does declare items surplus and send them to Surplus Goods, if an item has some worth, she advertises it herself. The reasoning for this is that the department will end up getting less money for the item through Surplus than if they sell it on their own. She has advertised items in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. According to Linda, Ken is aware of this procedure. This correlates with comments received on many of the faculty/staff surveys, reflecting that several departments feel that they can get more money for their items on their own than through Surplus.

Linda also commented that before sending items to Surplus she tries to give it to someone within the department. This is an important fact to consider when drawing conclusions from our results concerning which departments send the most items to Surplus. Certain departments that send less to Surplus may appear to be more environmentally friendly because they are getting the most use from their items before disposing of them. However, they may actually be giving items to someone within the department, taking them home or leaving them to sit. Linda also made the comment that in light of the budget constraints, Surplus Goods will probably be used more often. This is an interesting point to consider. Jim Natran also brought up this issue. He commented that departments have less money to spend, so they are a lot more selective in their spending now than they have been in the past. Bob Elliott also alluded to this as he mentioned that the system is becoming increasingly important and that ways to improve it should be continually sought. This indicates that this is the perfect time to make people aware of Surplus Goods as they would be likely to use it now more than ever.

Jim Natran indicated that Surplus is checked quite often within the official process. He noted that he prefers to take a walk down to Surplus, rather than checking the inventory books; he feels that the inventory is easier to assess visually. As is shown in our analysis of outflow from Surplus, Jim pointed out he usually gets furniture from Surplus. He noted that he would not even check Surplus for computer equipment as everything there is of no use on campus anymore. He also stated that when campus departments come to Purchasing to buy an item, he may check Surplus for it. If the item is in Surplus, he gives the department the choice of obtaining it from here or buying it new. He commented that if it fits, by and large people will obtain it from Surplus, but there are some who want to buy new regardless.

As there are no records kept of exactly where each item ends up, we could not do as comprehensive of an outflow examination as we wished. In determining the environmentally viable component of sustainability, this would have been helpful knowledge. We did get an indication from both Ken and Jim of how much went to the landfill. Both commented that very little actually ends up there. Ken noted that a lot goes off campus during the sales. Jim also commented on the sales as the major distributor of items. He further mentioned that all paper and scrap metals are recycled and that the University has been recycling these items for years, even before recycling was a politically correct action. Apparently, in view of the long-standing surplus system, this is true of reuse as well!!

When questioned about the Internet and e-mail as a possible future implementation for Surplus Goods, all generally felt that this was a good idea. From a user's viewpoint, Linda feels that posting on the Internet or through e-mail would make the system more easily accessible. She commented that she would definitely check more frequently. Our survey results reporting the number of people on campus with e-mail and Internet access indicate that this may be a beneficial addition to the system. Ken agrees with the users in that e-mail/Internet access would benefit the system. Although Bob Elliott can also see e-mail and Internet as being key factors in instigating an increase in usage of Surplus Goods, he had an administrative caution; he feels that such efficiency would call for the hiring of a full tie staff member to manage pricing, daily transactions and updating the Internet. He has doubts as to whether hiring a new employee would be an economically wise decision. However, if the user's posted their surplus declaration rather than filling out a form, it would take the burden of posting off Surplus Goods. This method would be no more time or trouble for the user and serves to benefit all actors involved.

All those interviewed indicated that the Surplus system was, in their opinions, running rather well at present. As Bob Elliott stated, the system has been in place and running smoothly since the University started, and has never as of yet been questioned.

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The findings outlined in this study led to the development of several recommendations which we feel are not only feasible, but logical as the next steps for Surplus Goods. These recommendations have been divided into two categories; those that improve Awareness/Accessibility; and those that improve Use/Diversion.

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7.1 Awareness/Accessibility

Probably the most alarming of our findings was the fact that 98% of students do not realize that they have full access to Surplus Goods. No less comforting were the findings which revealed that more than half of the staff and faculty on campus do not realize the level of access to which they are entitled. This has led us to recommend that advertisements be placed in the Imprint and on the community radio station in order to increase the level of awareness and therefore accessibility of staff, faculty and students of Surplus Goods. The Imprint in particular is so widely distributed throughout the campus that advertisements placed in it only a couple of times a term would have a great impact. Through our surveys many of the staff who knew about Surplus Goods indicated that they found out about it through the Gazette. The Imprint is the next logical step.

Increasing the awareness of Surplus Goods will increase the amount of people who wish to purchase items or just wander through to see what is available. For this reason we recommend that Surplus set regular hours which are advertised. This will regulate the traffic to certain time periods and will not interrupt the regular routines in Central Stores.

When students register at the University of Waterloo for the first time they receive an information package in which much of campus life is explained. This package serves to begin the acclimatization process into the University setting. We recommend that a brief outline on Surplus Goods and an explanation of the access students have to it be included in package. Doing this would guarantee that all new students would have a basic understanding of the system and would greatly enhance the level of student awareness.

Located in the Campus Centre is a buy-sell board on which students and staff can advertise things for sale or for things they wish to buy. This board reaches a wide audience and, judging by the ads on it, is quite successful. We recommend that Surplus Goods advertise on the buy-sell board. We believe that this would have great success in selling items such as computers and furniture. This would also enhance awareness and increase the access students have in purchasing these items.

The results of our survey indicated a high level of usage of e-mail and internet by staff and faculty on campus. Though we did not survey students in this regard we believe the level of student usage to be quite high as well. It is for this reason that we recommend that a Homepage be set up for surplus Goods. It is our belief that this will make it much more accessible to faculty, staff, and students.

To some degree these recommendations may overlap, so that the faculty, staff and students are getting information from more than one source. Consider the levels of awareness shown in our surveys. In the short term, at least, a strong effort needs to be made in to increase the level of awareness of Surplus Goods. By having these recommendations implemented we believe that the level of awareness and accessibility will be much improved.

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7.2 Use/Diversion

Perhaps you are wondering why you see e-mail/internet listed again as a recommendation. Let us explain! first, we believe that it fits equally well, for different reasons, in this category; and, second, we feel it is too important not to mention again. The use of e-mail/internet as a tool to access Surplus Goods will certainly increase the use of that department. Increasing its use will then serve to divert an increased quantity of items back into the campus system. The use of the internet, in particular, for this type of function is the obvious wave of the future; a wave we believe Surplus should be riding.

If the University of Waterloo as a whole is to achieve sustainability, we believe the purchasing process on campus must change. For this reason we recommend a policy change in the purchasing procedures. Simply stated, we believe that it should be University policy that Surplus Goods be checked before any new items are allowed to be approved for purchase. It makes no sense that new items may be purchased hen good usable items may be sitting in Surplus. Implementing a policy would also ensure that items as well as financial resources are kept in the campus system.

Our final recommendation in this regard may seem small in comparison, but we feel it is important. Surplus Goods has an inventory list which it prints up monthly. We believe that there should be a wider distribution of the inventory list. This would serve to bridge the gap between the present and the future while the other recommendations are being explored and put into place. In the short term, a wider distribution of this list would increase awareness and as a result increase its use.

It is our assertion that these recommendations, once in place, will bring the Surplus Goods and therefore the University further down the path towards sustainability.

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The time has come to take a step back in order to decide whether or not Surplus Goods is functioning in a sustainable manner. We must take another look at our criteria: accessibility, awareness, use and diversion.

It is clear that the level of awareness of Surplus Goods is varied throughout the campus, and that accessibility is directly related to the level of awareness. It is accessible only to those who are aware of it. The quarterly sales are an indication of the success of Surplus, while the awareness level of the student body is an area which needs to be improved. Before we can answer our question, we need to look at use/diversion.

Throughout our study it became obvious that Surplus is quite successful in the diversion of the items sent to it. By studying the monthly records it became clear that as much leaves Surplus as is sent. This indicates that Surplus Goods is successful in this regard. Jim Natran, Bob Elliot and Ken Moody all indicated that very few items are sent to the landfill. Although this can not be directly quantified due to the lack of records on where items go, some surplus records indicated where items went. Of those that indicated where things went, only one item reportedly went to the landfill, while 38 items were sold and 22 were recycled. While no definite conclusions can be drawn from this, it gives a rough picture of where items go. Through recycling, quarterly sales, and redirection of items back into the campus system, Surplus Goods manages to find a home for pretty much everything that is sent its way. It turns a profit year after year, putting critical dollars back into the campus.

So...the QUESTION!


We believe that it is! there is no question that there is room for improvement and this is reflected through our recommendations. Sustainability is as much a process as it is a state and Surplus Goods is well on its way. Economically, Surplus saves the University thousands of dollars each year simply be redirecting used items back into the campus system. In addition, it makes money by selling items which are no longer of use to the University. Environmentally, Surplus Goods saves literally tonnes of items from ending up in the landfill each year by finding another home for them. Also, it encourages the reuse of items, rather than encouraging new purchases. Socially, Surplus gives something back to the community at large, as well as to the faculty, staff and students. This brings the providers and the users of the system closer together. We have looked at our initial perception of the system and how the system is actually functioning. Since sustainability is a evolutionary process, we hope to see the Surplus system continue along its evolutionary path (See our future vision of the surplus system).

Our recommendations are not Earth shattering, rather, they should be considered a fine-tuning of a system which already operates quite well. It is this fine-tuning, which, when done consistently will continue to lead us down the path toward our sustainable, common future.

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Connolly, Lynda . Personal communication with Jeff Wilson.

Cook, Patti . Personal communication with the Surplus Group.

Elliot, Bob . Personal communication with Sauna Cox and Jeff Wilson.

Natran, Jim . Personal communication with the Surplus Group.

Ministry of Tourism and Recreation. Enjoying Research. Toronto, 1992.

Moody, Ken . Personal communication with the Surplus Group.

Oliver, Janice . U of T Swap Shop: Operating Procedures and Protocol. Memo-January 10, 1995.

University of Waterloo. Policies and Guidelines. University of Waterloo 1994.

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