Title: [GreenYes] Re: Charitable donation agency
Thanks Mary Lou and Rebecca. In the Boston area there are a variety of
thrift stores, but none of them do much to market themselves well to the
general public (though a new clothing chain called "Second Time Around" has
begun showing up in upscale communities and even a high-end mall). There are
a couple architectural salvage outlets in Boston, but they are virtually
unknown to the average person and are located in places where no one of
financial means goes. I've never visited Urban Ore, so I don't know much
about how you are situated in the Bay area. Do you think the success has to
do with the Bay area's unique characteristics, or is this a missed
opportunity - where reuse opportunities are just not taking advantage of the
available middle class market?
Recycling & Resource Management Consulting
9 Henshaw Street, Newton, MA 02465
From: Mary Lou Van Deventer [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, August 11, 2008 2:12 PM
To: Jewell, Rebecca
Cc: Ann Dorfman; GreenYes
Subject: Re: [GreenYes] Re: Charitable donation agency
Another option to consider is to establish or facilitate the
establishment of a take-it-all salvage enterprise comparable to Urban
Ore in Berkeley. As Rebecca points out, most thrift organizations
have a social purpose and use secondhand stores to finance it. At
Urban Ore, we're an environmental company, and our corporate purpose
is To End the Age of Waste. So recovering resources and preventing
landfilling is our focus, which structures our operation differently
from the social-purpose charities. We're professionals at recovery -
38 paid staff, no volunteers. We salvage from the transfer station
and take lots of materials Goodwill and Salvation Army have turned
down for lack of capacity. After 28 years in business we have
accumulated 3 acres of stuff, and the density of inventory is a draw
for both suppliers and buyers. We carry doors, windows, sinks, tubs,
toilets, lumber, marble, tile, cabinets, hardware, tools, sporting
goods, home and office furniture, art supplies, home electronics,
books, clothes, housewares, old gas stoves (not electric), and the
occasional church pews, theater seats, or gorilla suit.
The quantity of reusable goods available in the supply market is
astonishing, and the already-large reuse industry could expand
substantially in every small town and big city. Despite some thrift
stores' inability to handle some types of inventory, the demand market
isn't satiated, especially with the approach of an age of scarce
resources. There are already signs of adaptation to the new era,
including a high-production artisan clothing company in San Francisco
that makes old clothes into individually designed new ones that fit
the style and taste of young adults.
Besides the usual demand market of people who have limited means,
there's a big subset of a generation now in their twenties and early
thirties that is a natural market for old stuff. They are educated,
environmentally conscious, cash conscious, uneasy about global trade,
worried about global warming, and interested in creative solutions.
They are interested in slow food and being localvores. The more gas
prices go up, raising prices rise on newly manufactured things, the
more stylish it becomes to shop at our place. Creative and appealing
merchandising is important, although the nature of our enterprise,
with inventory coming in and going out quickly, means we lean not
toward the formal, but toward the funky. Supply-driven retail is a
curious animal and requires creative adaptation to the fluctuations in
It's a fast-paced, fun way to conduct business, and every city needs
at least one Urban Ore-like enterprise focused on preventing
landfilling through reuse. We are also obsessed with recycling as
much as we can, when things aren't reusable or don't sell. We
advertise our values, and both our supply customers and demand
customers have come to rely on us for that comfort.
This kind of enterprise is self-scaling to the community, and the
inventory that sold once in an area is likely to sell again to nearby
people of similar tastes. A decade ago we helped a 200-person
community in Oregon set up a reuse facility that is still operating,
although our business is embedded in a major metropolitan area.
On Aug 11, 2008, at 8:50 AM, Jewell, Rebecca wrote:
> This is absolutely true. The Community Thrifts are the low-cost
> hauling company for many who look at their discards and think "If I
> didn't have a shirt, this would be better than nothing." The truth
> is that many/most of those donations are not suitable for American's
> consumer interests, especially when competing with Walmart for
> clothing and household items.
> The goal of changing America's consumer interests is not the
> objective of many of those community thrifts; they have other work
> to accomplish.
> The result is that something around 40% of all "donations" to
> community thrifts are actually not usable by the standards of their
> shoppers or clients.
> StopWaste.org has recognized this, locally in Alameda County, CA.
> Further, they realize that thrifts pose a significant diversion from
> the landfill; they award Thrift Store Block Grants to encourage
> recycling. A thrift qualifies based on their total landfilling
> expenses when contrasted with all they recover for resale/reuse and
> There are significant opportunities for recycling, it sounds like
> your agency in Boston has availed themselves of some of those.
> Suggestions I would have include making sure that they are
> recovering & recycling all the cardboard boxes their donations come
> in. At the thrift I worked at, we also had a program to recover &
> recycle all the plastic bags from donations. Those are the more
> obvious options.
> The less obvious included shoe buyers, book buyers and electronics
> buyers, all of whom sourced materials unsuitable for resale from
> thrifts like ours and found outlets that weren't available to us
> We also ran a creative reuse program for clients to use their
> creativity to make new things out of discards. We made all kinds of
> things with reclaimed materials.. This really requires someone with
> a crafty bent and some interest. An option that seemed interesting
> but never got traction was to open the warehouse to the public for a
> fee; take anything you like, in whatever condition, after you pay $x
> to come in.
> Lastly, St. Vincent de Paul of Eugene, Oregon runs a deconstruction
> facility here in Alameda County working with mattresses. They
> deconstruct the mattresses into their components for recycling or
> composting. ARBoone does something similar for the do it yourself-er
> with couches and other padded furniture, but it may not be cost
> effective on the scale of a community thrift.
> I might suggest a more discerning donation acceptance policy, though
> that serves to infuriate potential donors and may result in more
> I hope that's useful.
> Best of luck,
> Rebecca Jewell
> Recycling Programs Manager
> Davis Street Station for Material Recycling & Transfer
> A Waste Management company
> -----Original Message-----
> From: GreenYes@no.address [mailto:GreenYes@no.address]On
> Behalf Of Ann Dorfman
> Sent: Saturday, August 09, 2008 1:59 PM
> To: 'GreenYes'
> Subject: [GreenYes] Charitable donation agency
> Speaking of reuse, I was talking recently with a charitable donation
> with a half-dozen resale shops here in the Boston area, and they are
> for some help reducing the amount of materials they receive that
> they throw
> away. Donation centers apparently have unbelievably high disposal
> People drop off gobs of stuff that they no longer want, but Goodwill
> unable to resell much of what they receive in their resale shops -
> because something is reusable doesn't mean there is adequate demand.
> work with a "salvage company" that handles damaged clothing and
> other small
> items, but have a difficult time moving all the furniture that is
> left at
> their door overnight and other materials that they just can't sell.
> They are
> wondering what other options are available that will help them
> reduce cost
> and increase revenue received for the stuff people leave with them.
> have never conducted an audit so can't really quantify the different
> of stuff that they receive. Is anyone aware of any studies that have
> done quantifying the types of materials that end being donated to
> this type
> of organization and the highest use, highest revenue, lowers cost
> that might be available?
> Ann Dorfman
> Recycling & Resource Management Consulting
> 9 Henshaw Street, Newton, MA 02465
> O: 617-244-9321
> F: 617-446-1431
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