Whatcom County is lucky to have such a diverse and strong economy. Our corner of the earth is home to businesses, non-profits, enterprises, schools, and groups of all types. We’re especially lucky to have a booming manufacturer presence. Local manufacturers have made great strides towards eliminating waste from their production. Luckily, there is always room for improvement and we are eager to help.
In 2014, we learned that local manufacturers were struggling to recycle their leftover materials, or by-products. A member of The RE Store staff reached out to our partners at Itek Energy to see if we could help. Due to their extensive warranty policy with strict and exacting quality standards, Itek was forced to dispose of tons of slightly-imperfect solar panel glass, every single month. We came up with a solution together that allowed us to make this near-perfect glass available to the community at discounted prices. Check out this blog post to learn more about solar panel glass and it’s uses. In the time since the first pallet arrived at our warehouse, Itek has saved tens of thousands of dollars in labor and disposal costs, The RE Store has generated more than $100,000 for in-house displaced worker job training, and through our work together, we’ve been able to divert 118,000 pounds of solar glass from the landfill. What’s more, in early 2018 we identified a handful of other items for diversion, including steel drums, pallets, and cardboard boxes for future diversion.
Our partnership with Itek was such a huge success that we reached out to other manufacturers. An informal survey identified multiple high-value products that were currently being sent to the landfill every day. These include materials that can easily be reused, such as pre-fabricated furniture parts, orphaned cabinet pieces, pre-cast stone and concrete products, and dimensional lumber shipping and packaging components.
In light of these survey results, and in an effort to lessen the burden on local manufacturers of paying for disposal and associated labor costs, The RE Store formally launched a new program called Manufacturing Waste Diversion. Today, Manufacturing Waste Diversion supports a growing number of local manufacturers in their efforts to reduce their environmental impact. After initial contact with manufacturers, our staff perform waste audits to identify materials that are well suited for reuse. Materials are then sold at The RE Store to community members for pennies on the dollar. Manufacturer donations are eligible to be written off as non-profit donations with a tax receipt, further offsetting disposal and labor costs.
Manufacturing Waste Diversion is supported in part through a $100,000 3-year grant awarded by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust of Vancouver, WA. The grant will enable The RE Store to support local manufacturers in sustainably managing their by-product. M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest—Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington—that seek to strengthen the region’s educational and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. www.murdocktrust.org