With the financial contribution of their well-managed businesses, nonprofit organizations build revenue to deliver a higher level and range of human services, while yielding economic, employment, environmental and community benefits.
In our disposable world, there is an endless stream of discarded goods added to landfills in the United States. The landfills create hazardous air emissions (methane) with environmental and health impacts to U.S. communities. Rather than the typical curbside recyclable waste such as glass, plastic and cans—let’s focus on the consumer “nuisance” products (e.g., mattresses, clothing, furniture, appliances, computers, cars) that may be unsold, defective, or out-of-style that fill warehouses and must be moved out to make way for new products. Such products may be reused—i.e., given new life with minimal change, or recycled through repair, refurbishment, or deconstruction into useful parts—tapping into a massive amount of waste and treating it as a valuable resource and opportunity for organizational, individual, and community advantage.
Waste-Based Business Funds Social Services
Some types of waste-based business operations are: mattress recycling; repurposing building materials; computer refurbishing; retail, pop-up and online thrift, scrap, or bookstores; and used car sales. These social enterprises offer a whole new way of funding programs and services to assist those in need, while providing substantive employment, environmental, and community benefits. Typically nonprofit retail thrift is a $17 billion used merchandise sector and is number 12 on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 list of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP), and the Salvation Army are examples of well-known entities running thrift stores to fund their charitable efforts—homeless shelters; child-care centers; furniture banks for disaster victims; job training programs for disadvantaged adults and young people touched by gang violence; construction waste reuse centers; and other services aimed at alleviating poverty and improving other social determinants of health.