Part of a series about the charitable reuse centres operating in Halton Region.
Waste audits have shown 7% of the materials found in Halton’s residential garbage stream are textile materials that could be salvaged through reuse centres. This number may not seem like a lot, but if each of the more than 180,000 households in Halton were to reduce their garbage by 7%, it could significantly extend the lifespan of our landfill!
The Reuse Centre, which is operated by the Burlington Reuse Environmental Group, is dedicated to waste diversion through its successful operations.
I had the opportunity to meet with Isabel Cummings and Yboyka Lavayen to discuss how the Reuse Centre operates, and in turn how it benefits the local community.
LP: Tell me a bit about the Reuse Centre.
IC: The Reuse Centre will be in operation for 21 years as of December 2013. We are a group of people dedicated to diverting materials from the landfill, and have done a great job so far! Last year alone, we diverted 272,155 kg (600,000 lbs) of materials! Our facility is 21,000 square feet, and we carry everything from bathroom sinks to vanities to glassware. The Reuse Centre started as an environmental movement, but has grown to be recognized as an outlet for collectors and budget-friendly shoppers to find great buys. Prior to 1997, our facility was half the size, but we simply outgrew the old building as a result of generous donations from the residents of Halton Region.
YL: The Reuse Centre is really a secret treasure here in Burlington. The Reuse Centre receives some really wonderful items that we resell at an affordable price. One section of the Reuse Centre that we are particularly proud of is the “Treasure Trove.” This is an area of the store dedicated to one-of-a-kind donations. We have the items appraised and hold weekly auctions for those interested!
LP: In what ways does the Reuse Centre give back to the local community?
IC: We have a passion to be involved with the community, and do our best to help out when we can. We have provided funds for a scholarship awarded to Sheridan College students entering the Environmental program in the past, and also sponsor the Halton EcoFest in Oakville. We donate reuse items to local charities that need materials, and allow theatres to borrow items to use as props, free of charge.
The Reuse Centre also works closely with high school students looking to gain volunteer hours. The students learn about responsibility, customer service, and the importance of giving back to the community.
Wherever there is a need in the community, if we can assist, we jump in.
LP: When did the reuse program start?
IC: The Reuse Centre was founded nearly 21 years ago by the Conserver Society, whose mission is to “promote solutions for a sustainable environment through education, community action, advocacy, and collaboration.” The group had taken a trip to the landfill, and saw so many materials that were in good condition and of value being thrown away. The group thought “there has to be a better way.”
The group went to the City of Burlington, Halton Region, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to request sponsorship for a reuse centre to provide an environmentally-friendly alternative for residents to dispose of materials that were still in working condition. Now, nearly 21 years later, we are diverting a significant amount of material (as we mentioned earlier) and are providing a cost-effective alternative for residents looking to purchase affordable, good quality textiles and household items.
LP: What kind of materials do you accept?
YL: We accept a wide range of items: clothing, books, sports equipment, furniture, white goods, tiles, toilets, cupboard doors, bathtubs, electronics, lawn care items — anything that can be reused!
LP: How are the materials processed?
IC: All of the material donated to the centre is weighed upon arrival, logged, and then sorted. Volunteers inspect all of the materials to ensure everything is in good condition — we even test all electronics to make sure that they are in working condition (residents can also test before purchasing, if they would like)! If anything is not in tip-top shape, volunteers will repair items to the best of their ability. We are very lucky — residents who make donations care, and donate materials that are in good condition. If residents have something they want to donate, they can contact….
LP: Do you ever receive materials that the Reuse Centre doesn’t need? If so, what happens with those materials?
IC: Unfortunately, some use our facility as an opportunity to avoid landfill disposal fees and dispose of items that we cannot accept at our Reuse Centre, such as mattresses, tires, or household hazardous waste. Sadly, this happens on a regular basis, and it costs us several hundred dollars a month to remove this material and dispose of it in a proper manner. We sell all of our products at a very affordable rate. To put this into context, it would require us selling a lot of $0.25 pins to obtain the funds required to remove the unacceptable material from our property.
LP: In what ways can residents get involved or contribute to the Reuse Centre?
YL: Spread the word that the Reuse Centre exists and provides great quality, cost-effective goods! Our facility is on North Service Road, and is well worth the trip. Residents can like us on Facebook to get updates about new and exciting items received at the Reuse Centre!