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Delaware Goodwill breaks into manufacturing in new initiative

Katie Tabeling
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Goodwill of Delaware & Delaware County has invested in a glass crusher to help reduce waste and potentially find a new material to sell. | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOODWILL

Goodwill of Delaware & Delaware County has invested in a glass crusher to help reduce waste and potentially find a new material to sell. | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOODWILL

WILMINGTON — Not everything donated to a local Goodwill can be sold in one of its stores. Chipped vases, games with mismatched pieces and broken toys that can’t be reused often get thrown out, making room for other items on store shelves.

But when the Goodwill of Delaware & Delaware County estimated 350,000 pounds of glass received heads to the landfill per year, President and CEO Colleen Morrone knew something had to change.

“In the hierarchy of recycling, the best use is reuse. But what happens is a lot of the products that are donated to Goodwill can’t be sold in our stores,” she told the Delaware Business Times. “That audit was eye-opening, because I don’t think we had an idea of what were the largest things being put in the trash.”

How does one break that cycle? 

Simple. Find a new use for the broken glass —  like crushing it down to potentially be sold in arts and crafts stores or to manufacturing partners.

Through collaboration, Morrone, Goodwill of Greater Washington CEO Catherine Meloy, CEO of Goodwill of Greater Washington and Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake CEO Lisa Rusyniak are working on new initiatives to do just that. 

After a waste audit on all three region’s operations found the top items that went into the waste stream, the three leaders decided to invest in technology to transform the products into something new.

The Goodwill of Delaware & Delaware County is the first to receive an industrial glass crusher machine which will implode glass to turn it back into sand. The machine can make the glass so small it can easily run through your fingers or large enough to serve as aquarium gravel or as garden decor.

Backed by a grant, each regional Goodwill will receive a glass crusher machine. Right now, the Goodwill in New Castle has the only machine in the network and can be run by one staff member.

“Right now, we’re still waiting for the recycling permits. But when we do, we’ll be looking for organizations that can use this. It would be great if we can generate revenue from it, so we could at least save us some on the landfill needs,” Morrone told DBT. “We can see hiring one more position in the back of stores, because it’s a lot of glass.”

Moving forward, the Goodwill of Delaware & Delaware County is looking at finding more reuses with textiles. In the past, the non-profit has sent textiles overseas to those in need, but a recent partnership with the University of Delaware may help recycle the fibers themselves into mulch mats for gardens.

Talk has already started on buying a plastic shredder so that plastics can be resold as raw materials, though that may end up being one piece of equipment that would be shared among the three regional Goodwills. Although these developments may mean more regulations to work through if the non-profit pursues that route, it would also mean adding more manufacturing jobs and upskilling existing staff.

For Morrone, the sustainability initiatives show the importance of thinking beyond the borders of a market and finding innovative solutions.

“We all have the same issues, and in Delaware, the biggest issue is scalability. When we work as a whole and leverage our resources, we can create bigger things than we could have done by ourselves,” she told DBT. “This isn’t difficult to replicate. We’re already hearing more interest in the Goodwill network, and others have either looked into or bought a glass machine since.”

 

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