Our Recycling Programs

Sparing landfills, creating jobs

In addition to providing employment and employment services Goodwill’s retail effort is also about re-use. By accepting your donated household items and selling them in our stores, we keep significant volumes of goods out of landfills.

However, you may not know just how much we’re doing. Many of the items donated to Goodwill cannot be resold in our stores as they are too worn, broken, unsafe or simply unsalable. Further processing of these rejected materials results in more employment opportunities and another source of revenue: salvage markets.

We’ve developed secondary markets for salvage textiles, books, stuffed animals and shoes. Goods that don’t meet quality levels required for our stores, but meet minimum quality levels set by a salvage customer, are recycled through these markets and kept out of landfills. For example, unsalable metal items, from pots and pans to bicycles, are recycled through scrap-metal dealers. Even the cord off of a lamp or toaster oven generates revenue through copper reclamation.

In fiscal year 2014-15, in addition to the millions of pounds of goods recycled through retail sales in our stores, we used secondary markets to recycle:

•  2.2 million lbs. of unsalable textiles

•  300,000 lbs. of general scrap metal

•  100,000 lbs. of salvage shoes

•  400,000 lbs. of salvage books

Mattress Recycling

Down to the springs

One unique work opportunity at Goodwill Duluth is the manual deconstruction of mattresses. Mattresses present significant challenges to landfill operators, as they take up a lot of space, cause equipment problems, and tend to rise to the surface of landfill materials.

This work project began in 2004 and Goodwill of Duluth has processed more than 100,000 units to date. Currently about 1,300 mattresses are processed each month. There are a limited number of firms in the US that deconstruct mattresses and only a handful like Goodwill that effectively recycle the components, IE: foam, quilted toppers, wood, and mattress and box spring steel. The highest dollar component of a mattress are in fact the steel springs, which are compacted into 60-pound cubes. They are shipped directly to ME Global Foundry in Gary New Duluth for re-manufacturing at their location.

Goodwill partners with counties, furniture retailers and several other institutions to deconstruct and recycle their mattresses for them. Goodwill doesn’t however accept mattresses from the public, but does partner with the Materials Recovery Center and other locations, where individuals can dispose of their mattresses for a small fee.