You maybe know a bit about Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity's ReStore home improvement outlets. That they take donations of new and gently-used home improvement items, furniture, appliances, and more, sell them at a steep discount, and use the revenue to power Twin Cities Habitat's mission.
But maybe you didn't know that the ReStore's culture of recycling goes beyond that.
First, all the items for sale at the ReStore likely would've ended up in the garbage if they weren't donated. Annually, donations prevent 2.2 million pounds, or 1,100 tons, from going to the landfill. That's like 14 houses-worth of garbage saved each year!
Next, the ReStore looks for every way possible to recycle. Here are some of the ways ReStore recycles.
Most people don't realize that you can recycle your paint at both ReStore locations. One person can bring up to five gallons of paint per day. If it's still good quality, it will be put on our sales floor. Otherwise, it will be put into the PaintCare program. We've put about 3,000 gallons into the Paint Care program over the last year!
If that's not enough, we also sell Amazon Paint at both ReStore locations, which is 99.6% recycled latex paint! At $16 a gallon it's a steal, and both ReStores stock Amazon Paint in twenty popular colors. It's low-sheen only, and the most popular colors are also available in five-gallon buckets. It gets a good review from ReStore DIY expert Jan Hagerman.
"I was surprised the first time I used Amazon Paint on one of our DIY projects," she says. "The paint coats well and cleanup is a snap.”
The ReStore team took a trip to visit the local Amazon Paint warehouse, and were impressed with their recycling process. Check it out.
Bales of Cardboard
Both ReStore locations go through their fair share of cardboard—most donations are dropped off in a cardboard box. The ReStore had always recycled this cardboard, but it took up a lot of space in the recycling dumpster, which increased the cost.
In 2016, the ReStore team applied for grants from Hennepin and Ramsey Counties to purchase a cardboard baler for each ReStore. Now, instead of paying to have a dumpster hauled away often, we can create bales of cardboard that can generate additional recycling revenue for ReStore.
The New Brighton ReStore creates about 18 cardboard bales a year, and the Minneapolis ReStore creates an additional 12. Each bale saves a dumpster pickup, which is $250 each time; meaning the ReStore saves roughly $7,500 per year from the cardboard balers.
*Note: you cannot bring your cardboard recycling to the ReStore. Check out places for other types of recycling.
Scrap Metal Crew
Sometimes donations just won't sell. If an item has been sitting out on the floor without any takers for four to six months, it's time to get rid of it. That's where the scrap crew comes in. Once a week, this small team of volunteers comes in to each ReStore to sort through donations.
"All they do is break down items," says Robin Henrichsen, ReStore Donation Manager. "They sort out metals and break things apart to get to the valuable metals that can be recycled."
When the metals bin gets full, it's brought in to be sorted and recycled. The money from the metals recycling goes right back to the mission of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. In the last year, $15,000 was made from metal recycling. Not too shabby.
A Dumpster that Recycles
A small percentage of donated product is either slightly damaged or fails to get snapped up by a ReStore shopper. Then it's time to throw things into the dumpster. But even in the dumpster, items still get recycled. Our partner Atomic Recycling sorts everything that goes into the dumpsters and recycles whatever can be recycled.
In the last year, about 75% of the refuse in the dumpsters ended up being recycled. In the last two years at Minneapolis and five years at New Brighton, these dumpsters have recycled an additional 1,100 tons of refuse. Stuff that could have easily ended up in a landfill.
There's a culture of recycling at the ReStore—from up-cycling old cabinet doors into pieces of art, to recycling the fluorescent bulbs and copy paper in the office. And it's something the community has picked up on.
Greg Rue is the Manager of Thrift Businesses at The Arc's Value Village, local nonprofit thrift stores. Here's what he had to say about the ReStore's recycling mindset:
"Habitat for Humanity Restores takes a three-tier approach to being a good neighbor, just like we do at Arc’s Value Village! The main purpose of the nonprofit retail store is to generate support for a good cause; their cause brings people together to build homes, our cause supports the human rights of people with disabilities. The cascading effects include good stewardship of the environment and providing new life for products and avoiding landfills. These stores also provide an alternate solution for home restoration products and projects, and we regularly direct our donors with construction materials to Restore. Their website really sums it up with “A good deal for you, your community and the environment." We like to say that It Takes A Village and we are happy to have good neighbors in our Village like Habitat for Humanity ReStores!"
Carolyn Collopy works in waste reduction and recycling for the Hennepin County Environment and Energy Department. She said this about ReStore:
Recycling is a great way for residents and businesses to reduce their environment impact. Better still, shop for used items whenever possible. ReStore makes it easy to shop used and they do their part by recycling most of the waste their business generates.