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Goodwill finds value in wanted,unwanted items

After dropping off a load of unwanted items at Goodwill this week, I’m curious: What does Goodwill do with all the junk people drop off that they can’t sell (for example, torn and worn clothes, broken electronics, etc.)? Is it all taken to the dump, or is there a giant free box somewhere in Medford?

— Kacey J., Medford

Kacey, Southern Oregon Goodwill Industries prides itself in keeping our unwanted items out of landfills.

Items that are in “marketable condition” — i.e. not torn, stained, broken or otherwise damaged — are sold to bargain-driven shoppers in one of Southern Oregon Goodwill’s nine retail stores in Jackson, Josephine, Douglas and Klamath counties, said Julie Fletcher, the organization’s director of marketing and development.

The less-desirable items, including items that don’t sell within 30 days in a retail store, are deposited onto oversized tables at one of Goodwill’s four As-Is outlets and sold for about $1.39 per pound.

“It’s not a giant free box, but Goodwill’s As-Is outlet at 4 W. Third St., Medford, as well as those in Grants Pass, Roseburg and Klamath Falls, offers Goodwill hunting to the extreme,” Fletcher said in an email.

What’s leftover is turned over to recyclers and salvage buyers, including some who recycle the buttons off clothes, the rubber off shoes and the stuffing inside stuffed animals, she said.

In 2015 alone, Southern Oregon Goodwill kept 2.49 million pounds of textiles, 1.45 million pounds of e-waste, 645,000 pounds of books, 531,000 pounds of mixed metals, 71,000 pounds of plastic toys, 28,000 pounds of stuffed animals, and 322,000 pounds of shoes, including 177,000 pounds of single shoes donated without a match, out of local landfills.

"Goodwill recycles 27 categories of everyday items and partners with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to ‘e-cycle’ computers, small electronics and TVs so their components can be upcycled into a new use,” Fletcher said, adding that one example of upcycling is reconstituting CRT glass from older computer monitors into the reflective material on roadway striping paint.

“Revenue from these recycling efforts is a significant part of funding Goodwill job training and placement programs and other support services, such as family-strengthening classes and independent living support,” Fletcher said.

For a list of items that Goodwill can and can’t take, see sogoodwill.org/donate/donate-goods/guidelines/.

“If something comes to us that the public wouldn’t be interested in buying or we can’t recycle, we have to throw it away, and that goes against our zero-waste policy and it steals dollars away from our mission,” Fletcher said.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

—Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.