Goodwill beefs up recycling revenue
By Lee van der Voo
Sustainable Business Oregon contributing writer
Goodwill is finding gold in discarded PCs, Christmas lights, televisions and the like. Its salvage operation is bringing in 7 percent of total revenue.
It's likely unsurprising that local Goodwill stores recycled tens of millions of pounds in 2011.
But in addition to its sales of donated goods — furniture to housewares, books and clothes — Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette also runs a thriving salvage business.
About 93 percent of Goodwill's earnings come from the sales of donated items. But the remaining chunk of revenue — $8.9 million in 2011 — comes from gaming the salvage market, converting unsold items into a steady churn of income.
That revenue stream has jumped 43 percent since last year, thanks in part to upticks in pricing for raw materials and textiles, driven by demands in China and Africa. The remaining gains come from improvements made by Ray Miettinen, now in his second year as taskmaster of Goodwill’s four salvage operations in the Columbia Willamette area. Miettinen presided over this year’s gains and a 23 percent jump in salvage revenue in 2010.
“If I see anything that’s salvageable in the trash compactor it drives me absolutely crazy,” he said.
This is Goodwill behind the scenes: roughly 160 employees sort 2 million pounds of unsold goods a month, all from trailers rolling steadily to outlets from Goodwill’s other stores. They carry unsold items from around the Columbia Willamette area and first land on resale tables in the outlet stores, priced per pound in a last effort to sell them before they head to salvage.
Most Goodwill outlets – Portland, Salem, Hillsboro and Vancouver – are considered prime hunting grounds for local resalers. The tables are mobbed and hawked over by those who earn big money scooping up items for their own resale stores or selling online.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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