The system that will be examined is the surplus goods system. This includes the flow of items from departments throughout the campus into the surplus goods center, as well as the flow of used items from the surplus goods center into other departments. This also addresses the exploration of other avenues which unused goods can take to avoid having them sit idle or be disposed of unnecessarily.

Project Rationale

Investigating this system is imperative if sustainability is to be achieved at the University of Waterloo. All departments on campus have their share of surplus goods which are slack items that promote a wasteful and inefficient system. The reduction of this slack results in a more efficient use of energy and materials within our system. The seed planted by this initial move toward sustainability on campus will grow into an integrated web-like flow of goods throughout the university; this promotes the elimination of unnecessary inputs and, through the circulation of goods, a reduction in outputs. The purchase of new items will become a final resort as opposed to an initial action.

The System


In order to evaluate the system, we will need to look at certain criteria. For example, we will meed to identify who the main actors in the system are and to what degree each actor participates in the system. For example, if goods are brought to surplus storage from all departments, is there any one department that contributes more than another? We will also be looking at why items are being brought to surplus storage. For instance, are they old, broken,obsolete, or does the department have too many of that particular item?

What We Are Measuring

Our primary objective is to measure the current system and its viability. This involves a detailed inspection of the system to determine how it operates. We need to understand the components of the system and their interrelationships. The status of the current reuse center depends on the functioning of its sub-systems. It is also important that we determine the inputs, outputs, and flow patterns (fluxes and pools) within our system. This will help us identify which departments on campus are utilizing the current surplus storage/reuse center, including both sending and taking items, and to what degree the center is used. For example, do departments always check the reuse center before purchasing items; does a certain department only send items but never take them; are all unused items sent to the center? From this type of information we will attempt to understand why the system operates as it does. With this understanding, we will examine the success of the system in a sustainable context.

Depending on our conclusions we will propose recommendations to help improve the sustainability of the system and what this involves. It is important that we measure the viability of the reuse center itself. At this point we will compare the goals of sustainability with the functioning of the reuse center. If we find that they are not compatible a restructuring of the system may be proposed. Based on the answers to these unknowns the university can continue its strive towards a sustainable campus.

Key Contact People

Primary contacts: Secondary contacts:

Data Collection

We plan on collecting the necessary data by interviewing the contact people mentioned above in order to effectively scope out the issue at the University of Waterloo as well as surrounding communities and various schools across Canada.

In order to assess the viability of a reuse centre at Waterloo, we will conduct both staff and student surveys. These surveys will give us an idea if members of the university community are aware of the existing surplus goods area as well as if they would participate if a reuse centre became available to them.

We are also planning to conduct a material flow audit which will allow us to see how much is being thrown away or recycled without thought of their reuse possibilities. We will also determine how much is being sent to the surplus storage area and if those materials are being reused or just sitting idle.


Once we have been able to meet with Patti Cook and Ken Moody and identify the current system of surplus goods on campus, our strategies can be implemented.