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Durham, NC - Tamika Craige weaved through dozens of chairs, tables and filing cabinets in the Duke Surplus warehouse.
"I'm not looking for anything big today," Craige, a Pratt School of Engineering staff specialist, said as she looked in a box with 13 coffee mugs.
Doug Garland, a Duke Surplus computer technician, pushed aside a medical dictionary and pulled a popular office item from a shelf.
"How about an electric pencil sharpener?" he asked.
Craige smiled and tucked the sharpener under her arm. She didn't need to ask the price: the warehouse provides office furniture and equipment for Duke use at no charge.
On Mondays and Thursdays, Duke Surplus turns a portion of its 85,000-square-foot warehouse into a showroom for Duke staff and faculty. Employees who find useful items for their departments fill out paperwork to help Duke's Procurement office arrange delivery and ensure that the property remains at Duke.
In fiscal year 2012, the Duke Surplus program donated 230 computers and 1,377 items of furniture, furnishings or equipment back to Duke departments. About 8,100 other items were donated to not-for-profit organizations registered with Duke Surplus.
"The donation-only model encourages people to reuse rather than purchase and has been very successful in diverting Duke's surplus items away from the waste stream," said Mary Crawford, director of Duke's procurement programs.
Duke Procurement, which manages the surplus program, once sold surplus items to the public but discovered a retail store was not cost effective. "It's actually more beneficial to give the stuff away," Crawford said.
Duke requires all unneeded Duke property to be processed by the Duke Surplus program. All surplus Duke property is collected and sorted at the warehouse. Unusable items such as desks with broken drawers are set aside for recycling. Anything deemed reusable is stored in the warehouse and placed in the showroom as space allows. The inventory includes everything from coffee tables and card catalogues to ring binders and rugs.
"File cabinets and office chairs are our most popular items," Crawford said. "But research equipment like centrifuges, lab water baths and autoclaves also move quickly."
Employees interested in computers and research equipment for their departments must make an individual appointment with Procurement.
Craige, the staff specialist, is a frequent visitor to the warehouse. She has found desks, chairs, lamps, binders and a laptop computer for various labs and offices she supports.
"When people come to me to order office stuff I always offer to check Duke Surplus first," she said. "It's a cool sustainability program, but it also really helps departments save money."