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Goodwill is working toward “finding better solutions for products,” said Nick Carlson, Goodwill’s Director of Environmental Sustainability. Waste decreased by 60 percent from 2008 to 2010 and another 30 percent from 2010 to the present. Also in those time frames, disposal costs decreased by 68 percent and 47 percent, respectively. Behind the scenes, Goodwill finds a way to reuse or recycle nearly every item it’s given, whether it’s a broken CD or a shoe missing a mate.
In order to get the highest possible value of donated items, most are carefully assessed and go through multiple markets before winding up at the warehouse. Most articles get sold in one of the Goodwill stores, with gently used or high quality items such as antiques or books getting sold on shopgoodwill.com or other third party websites. When items don’t sell on the floor, they get sorted and sent out on trough-like bins at the Goodwill outlet store. Here, items have one hour on the floor, where they have the chance to be sold individually or by pound, depending on the product, at minimal cost. When items go unsold at the outlet, they are then categorized and sold at an even lower cost to businesses that recycle them.
When there is a diverse group of recycling companies in the community there are numerous benefits because, said Carlson, “you can really serve the location specific to its needs.”Most items are sold to local companies to be used or recycled, with the exception of plastics, which allows Goodwill to both monitor the process and contribute to the local economy. Getting the most bang for their buck at each step of the process allows Goodwill to give back to the community by employing people under one of Goodwill’s workforce development programs that train, employ and find outside jobs for many disadvantaged individuals.
“What kind of impact do we have on our community and how many businesses do we affect by recycling?” said Carlson. “We may be a $30 million organization, but we may have a $100 million effect.”
Carlson has his eyes set on higher goals for the future. 80 percent of Goodwill’s current waste products are composite furniture, which are difficult and costly to dismantle, making them a top priority. Goodwill is also looking at countywide mattress recycling and has an energy efficiency plan that is expected to be reached by 2015.