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Trash To Cash

Trash To Cash

MU finds another way to dispose of outdated computers: Sell them on eBay

There’s more to eBay than getting good buys. For the University of Missouri-Columbia, it’s a way to sell some of the 100 to 150 computers tossed aside each month on campus.

The large number of discarded computers stems from two facts: MU employs more than 11,000 people, making it Columbia’s No. 1 employer, and the average lifespan of a computer is about two years, according to Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources.
The result is that about one-fifth of the 20,000-square-foot warehouse set aside for surplus goods fills up monthly with computers, printers and copiers.

Starting in January, Bo Solomon, supervisor of MU’s Surplus Property, started using eBay to turn MU’s techno-trash and other surplus items into cash.

The monthly yields have ranged from $8,000 to $60,000, during the month when he had to dispose of a vehicle formerly used for a mobile agricultural laboratory.

Before listing items on eBay, Solomon makes an effort to have other departments review the surplus items to see if they can use what another department has discarded.

“Then we pull some out and sell them on eBay,” said Solomon.

What isn’t taken by other departments or sold on eBay is sold at MU’s monthly public auction. The auction brings in an average of $25,000 a month. The amount of material that ends up at auction is immense, and most of the computers auctioned off are old and obsolete, Solomon said.

“Half of it is junk, and half of it is good stuff,” he said.

A portion of the take goes to the department that disposed of the item and a portion goes to Solomon’s department for operating costs.
Items up for auction have included old microscopes, audio equipment, desks, chairs and, of course, plenty of computers, although without software. MU’s licensing agreement requires that all computers be wiped clean of software before being disposed.After the auction, any computers left over go to Mid-Missouri Recycling.
“I know it will be recycled correctly there,” said Solomon, who has concerns about harmful substances inside computers, such as lead. It also is illegal for businesses and organizations to dispose of computers in the trash, he noted.

“No one is dropping computers in dumpsters here,” he said. For more information about MU’s monthly auctions, see www.surplus.missouri.edu.

Where: Surplus Property Warehouse, Capen Park Road, off Rock Quarry Road.

When: 10 a.m. every three to four weeks. Upcoming auction dates are: Aug. 16, Sept. 13, Oct. 11, Nov. 15 and Dec. 13. The items to be auctioned can be viewed the day before the auction from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Who: Frances Fisher at 882-4912 or FisherF@missouri.edu for more information

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