Reusable or Not? Setting the Limits

Individuals and organizations in the reuse business must decide what types of materials to stock, use and sell. For example, wood-working crafters focus on lumber—anything from logs and beams to barn siding. Sculptors often use salvaged metal, while other artists incorporate vintage glass, wood, fabric and discarded objects in their works. For-profit salvage yards stock materials in keeping with their brand identity and clientele; since most of these stores buy materials for resale, they can, and must, be selective.

At the other end of the spectrum are the true hoarders (popularly referred to as junk dealers) who, for a variety of reasons, save pretty much everything.

Profit and nonprofit organizations that solicit donations of used building materials fall at various points between these two extremes. For example:

  • Organizations that accept materials requiring repair and refurbishment. Since higher value materials can absorb greater labor costs, these groups usually know exactly what they want in terms of value and condition.
  • Stores that accept medium to high-quality materials, quickly sell them, then use the proceeds to support an unrelated mission, such as building low-cost housing.
  • Stores whose mission prompts them to accept all types of reusable building materials, regardless of age or quality, and price them accordingly.

Since the TRP mission is to reduce the solid waste stream and change the way the built environment is renewed by salvaging building materials and distributing them for reuse, our focus is broad. At times we may look like a hoarder. However, TRP has expectations and limits, and sometimes personnel disagree about where to draw those lines.

For example, TRP regional associates, for the sake of customer service, better diversion rates, or higher donation values, occasionally deliver questionable materials to company warehouses. (TRP determines an item’s value based on its reuse potential—a function of age, condition, and market demand—and sets prices accordingly.) When they include metal ductwork, older and less efficient appliances, obsolete electronics, office equipment and knick-knacks in their deliveries, associates are making life more difficult for warehousing and sales people. Here’s how:

Every TRP warehouse has a fixed square footage upon which TRP bases its fixed costs, including rent and wages. All materials delivered to a warehouse require some amount of space and labor. Even if an item is unloaded and immediately placed in a recycling or trash bin, some cost must be borne.

Second, inappropriate materials dilute the TRP brand, confuse the customer, and retard the fulfillment of TRP’s mission. TRP wishes to be known as the premier outlet for used building materials, not for electronics, toys, furniture and household items.

The best way to serve the donor is to expediently handle as many extraneous materials as possible at the jobsite. Associates can do this by directing the donor to other, more appropriate organizations, including community nonprofits and recycling centers, and then finding the most cost-effective way to transport the materials to those locations.

As an alternative, TRP recently began cooperating with an organization that sends clothing and household items to Africa. Building materials from TRP help to fill their 40-foot shipping containers, so they are usually quick to accept  materials that are in good condition. We typically give them hollow-core flush doors, older appliances, outdated cabinetry and certain plumbing fixtures. In the process, TRP helps to improve the living conditions of more families, remove additional materials from local waste streams and keep costs to a minimum—and at the same time remain focused on the TRP mission.


Location and Contact Information

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Oakland
9235 San Leandro Street
Oakland, CA  94603
(510) 383-1983; toll-free 888-588-9490
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00-6:00 Closed Sunday

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Los Angeles
3015 Dolores Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90065
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-5:00; Sat 10:00-4:00

Please visit our partnering warehouses:

Salvage Too - Rockford Reuse Center
907 S Main Street
Rockford, IL 61101
(815) 963-6236
Hours: Tue-Fri, 11:00am-4:30pm

The ReUse Warehouse
1400 East Geer Street
Durham, NC 27704
(919) 219-4913
Hours: Mon-Fri, 2:00-6:00; Sat, 9:30-5:00

Second Chance Building Materials Center
1423 West Grove Street
Boise, ID 83702
(208) 331-2707
Hours: Mon-Sat, 9:00-6:00; Sun, 12:00-5:00

Roaring Fork Valley Habitat for Humanity
7025 Hwy 82
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-7733
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10:00-5:30; Sat, 10:00-5:00; Sun, 11:00-4:00

Stardust Building Supply
3901 E. Thunderbird Road
Phoenix, AZ 85032
(602) 459-9803
Hours: Mon-Sat, 8:00-6:00; Sun, 10:00-4:00

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Salt Lake Valley,
1276 South 500 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 263-0136
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00am-6:00pm; closed Sunday

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Summit & Wasatch Counties
6280 N. Silver Creek Drive, Silver Summit, UT
(435) 487-9015
Hours: Wed-Sat 10:00-6:00; closed Sunday

Recycle Utah
1951 Woodbine Way Park City, UT 84060
(435) 649-9698
Hours: Mon-Sat 8:00-5:30; Sun 10:00-4:00

Reuse Depot
50 West Madison
Maywood, IL 60153
(708) 223-0502
Hours: Wed-Mon 10:00-6:00p; Closed Tuesdays

New England Reuse
400 Sackett Point Rd
North Haven, CT 06473
(203) 230-2638
Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00-5:00p; Saturday 9:00-1:00p

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