SWAP History

The Surplus With A Purpose program (SWAP) is a department within Purchasing Services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  We are a multi-faceted surplus property disposal operation that serves all University of Wisconsin-Madison departments, UW System Schools, Municipalities and State of Wisconsin agencies.

What does the acronym S.W.A.P. stand for?

From 1981-1995 the Surplus Program of UW-Madison collected a large variety of unwanted materials from the campus.  In January of 1996, Surplus joined forces with another redistribution program on campus (known as the Solid Waste Alternatives project) to expand it’s collection and redistribution effort.

The Solid Waste Alternatives Project was initiated by UW-Madison’s Environmental Management program in November 1994 as an effort to find markets for low value surplus property.  It was successful in not only finding these markets, but also in developing new technologies for marketing surplus property over the internet.  This website is a direct result of that project.  The Sales Program adapted the innovations of the SWAP Project and applied them to the new combined Surplus Services/SWAP program, now known simply as SWAP.  SWAP now stands for Surplus With A Purpose to reflect our initiative to repurpose surplus university goods.

If it’s Surplus With A Purpose, what is the purpose?

First and foremost, SWAP is an environmental steward for the University.  Our overall focus is to serve the University by reducing it’s environmental footprint.  We do this by finding new homes for equipment and furniture through redistribution to other departments and sales to the public.

SWAP also has taken on the enormous challenge of being the sole recycler of all end-of-life computer waste streaming from campus and select State Agencies in Dane County.  While we try to find homes for much of the equipment, the vast majority is outdated or broken and these items need to be recycled properly.  Recycling computer equipment is easy.  Proper recycling of computer equipment is difficult and costly.  It involves setting high standards for our electronic scrap vendors that mandate no burying, dumping or shipping overseas.

How does SWAP redistribute the State’s surplus property?

For the benefit of all citizens of Wisconsin, SWAP first tries to locate other campus departments, state agencies or tax-supported organizations that may benefit from another department’s unwanted materials.  If SWAP cannot find a state agency, school, municipality or non-profit group that can use these materials, the surplus property is made available for sale to the general public.  SWAP sells surplus property in the following ways:

  • Regular sales at the SWAP Shop – The SWAP Shop is our surplus property store located in a warehouse in Verona and is open for weekly sales to departments and the public.  We sell items here just like at a large garage sale.
  • Online Auction – A very unique online auction site that has a selection of items that are consistently changing.  You will be seeing items from the ordinary to the unbelievable!  Items such as filing cabinets, desks, air conditioners, etc., to machinery, laboratory equipment, farm equipment, computers, athletic equipment and things that are virtually indescribable.

How much material does SWAP handle?

SWAP collects over 20 tons of surplus material each week.  Over 92% of those materials are either sold for reuse or recycled.  In years past, much of this material was sent to the landfill (or collected by dumpster divers on campus).  About 22% of the material handled by SWAP is computer equipment.