'Tis The Season For Recycling: MSU Surplus Store's Busiest Time Of Year

May 24, 2018

Most of the MSU students have left for the summer and much of campus is quiet, but for the MSU Surplus Store, it’s the busiest time of year. WKAR’s Katie Cook paid them a visit to see what things are like during “move-out madness.”


Come Spring, the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center has their work cut out for them.

“It is an absolutely crazy time of the year, we moved over 1 million pounds this last year to the landfill as well as to surplus store and recycling center and the various recyclers around the state.”

Operations Manager Sean Barton speaks with energy and excitement when he talks about what his collections team was able to bring in this year. Almost everything they get come from driving around campus and picking it up themselves.

“The Friday of move out we do continuous laps and actually put extra trucks on the road. Typically we pick up about 5,000 pounds per stop and we’d go seven or eight times in a day.”

When the mission is to save as much as possible from going to the landfill, you get quite a variety of random things for sale at the surplus store.

“We have lots of carpets, we get a lot of mini fridges, a lot of fans, the thing I see the most on the sales floor the right now is shower caddies. That’s something we try to market towards incoming freshmen. You don’t need to go out and buy a piece of plastic essentially, because that’s what a shower caddy is, we’ve got them here for a dollar right now. As opposed to, they’re probably 10 or 20 bucks brand new. And they’re all the same, to be honest, and ours you might just need to run through your dishwasher or wash by hand, and it’s good to go and you’re doing a great thing by reusing an item that would otherwise be recycled.”

And you’ve probably heard of their famous bike sales.

“For bikes it’s a bigger bulkier item, and a lot of people say you know what we’ll just leave it on the rack and I’ll come get it in the summer. And unfortunately that’s not something that’s allowed.  So they sit on the racks for about 30 days being tagged as abandoned, and then after they’re impounded for another 30 days, and then they come to us. Last move-out we picked up about 1,200 bicycles, and that’s an awful lot of bicycles. That’s 6 semi-trailers filled with bicycles. And we have them on our sales floor right now, I think we have about 600 left, and we have to be ready in July for another 1,200.”

Barton takes me behind the scenes to see where everything is sorted. He is surprised by how much clothing they got this year.

“Clothing is something we pick up a lot more than you would think. We get a lot from international students, they’re specifically at a disadvantage because typically you can only take one or two suitcases home on the plane. Which means you’re leaving a lot of the stuff that you got here. So luckily we have a good pack up pitch in program where in the lobby you have a chance to divert your clothes.”

The part of facility where everything is dumped and sorted is a giant warehouse, with conveyor belts and huge bunkers.

“Everything that you put in a recycling bin on campus is touched by a hand, on the sort line, by a student. So, when you’re recycling, think about that. If you’ve got a bag that’s kind of mixed with all the recycling, well trash is just unsorted recycling. As it is, please do your best, don’t just throw a whole bag of mixed recycling in there, we have to open that bag and hand sort it on a sorting line with a conveyor belt that doesn’t stop. You could miss other things which could result in contamination which results in less being recycled and isn’t necessarily best practice.”

On a walk through the sales floor, we see everything from hairdryers to christmas trees, and an the way out of the building, Barton points to the free area that’s full of futons. And he’s especially excited about some playground equipment.

“Here’s another cool thing from the Spartan Village, as they’re de-commissioning, they had playgrounds so we’ve been selling it. And I  believe we just sold that fire truck playground equipment to a fire station around here so they can put it in their front yards for kids to come and play on. I love that story of reuse. That’s just something that just makes me say, ‘yay sustainability, yay MSU,’  we were able to do something cool and keep resources out of that landfill and that’s what we’re all about.”

To find out more about the MSU Surplus Store’s hours and selection of items, visit their website here.