When Michigan State University goes green, it goes to the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center. Our goal is to keep the MSU community as green as possible by keeping our materials out of landfills – and we do that in a lot of ways.

Rethinking Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

While the triangle of green arrows is a great reminder of the basics, we’re upping our game by focusing on HIGHEST AND BEST USE.

So what’s highest and best use mean? It means that when you replace your old computer monitor with a newer, lighter version, we don’t just scrap it; we fix it and make it available for someone else to use (even if it’s as a fish tank). When you’re clearing out your bookcase, highest and best use means that they don’t go directly into recycling; we find the books that have reading value for others – and can be resold. It means that cut grass and leaves go into making compost – not into the landfill.

Highest and best use helps us divert more than 5.5 million pounds of materials from landfills each year. We do that by putting every item through an evaluation process that helps us determine if:

  1. The item can be reused or repurposed. If it is of value or can be repurposed as an item of value, we make that item available for sale through the MSU Surplus store. The profits are then either returned to the MSU Departments who donated or used to support operations and fee-for-recycling items such as electronic waste and mattresses.
  2. The item can be donated or shared. An expansion of the reuse philosophy, items that aren’t sold — but can still be of use — are given away or in some cases donated to local non-profit organizations.
  3. The item can be recycled or composted. For highest and best use, some items find new life in another form. Food waste, paper products and even waste from our farms can be composted and reused at the University or sold through the Surplus Store. If it can’t be composted, we recycle it according to industry standards.
  4. The item must be disposed. If an item cannot be reused, repurposed, recycled or composted, we sort items into those that can be sent to waste-to-energy plants — which incinerate materials to produce renewable energy — and those that must go to a traditional landfill (always a last resort).

By combining the Surplus Store and Recycling Center into one cohesive unit, we’re able to take a comprehensive view of each item—from the minute it comes into our facility to when it leaves – ensuring that we’re making the highest and best use of each and every item.