By Keara Dowd and Jamie Nash
Refurbished computers, given new life since their heyday in the 1990s. The worn, gray back seat of a car. Recycled lumber, all that remains of someone’s old vacation house on Cayuga Lake. These are all things you would have found in a landfill, if Finger Lakes ReUse didn’t exist.
Finger Lakes ReUse is a non-profit organization that literally turns one man’s trash into another man’s treasure. It has created 14 entry level and career employment opportunities in its first two years of recycling unwanted materials, and benefitted from 8,000 volunteer hours in 2011. ReUse aims to help the community by filling a void in waste management.
“There’s a lot of great places if you want to buy used clothes, there are a lot of great places for books,” said Nina Piccoli, Outreach and Development Associate for Finger Lakes ReUse, “but there were all of these other items that didn’t have a place to go and were ending up in the landfill. So that’s what we’re here for.”
Items are donated to the warehouse and Finger Lakes ReUse employees refurbish them, clean them up and label them with a price tag. ReUse has a pick-up and delivery truck on the road five days a week that both brings in donations and delivers large items that customers have purchased. The items for sale range from old film cameras to vintage record players.
The storefront opened its doors for the first time in November of 2008 in the Triphammer Marketplace. The founders’ goal was to provide a convenient alternative for people to dispose of their unwanted items without harming the environment, according to Executive Director Diane Cohen.
“Tompkins County and their solid waste department is fairly progressive as far as waste management approaches and practices,” she said. “We thought we could really reduce waste even further by providing a convenient alternative, and also create job opportunities and training.”
Selling reclaimed items isn’t the only way Finger Lakes ReUse is accomplishing their mission. They have teamed up with the Ithaca Youth Bureau to teach high school kids how to build and fix computers.
The organization also employs a deconstruction team to help people demolish houses or decks, salvaging the lumber to bring back to the ReUse center. Customers can then buy the lumber from the store for their own projects.
Finger Lakes ReUse plans to add more programs to promote reuse in the community, including a Fixers Collective and a job-training program with social services, starting in winter 2013.
“We’re starting a dual track job skills training program in technology and construction,” Piccoli said. One group will be learning electronics at the center, while the other will go out into the field with the deconstruction team.
The growth is not expected to stop anytime soon.
“There’s a lot of community energy, a lot of community support, and it’s fantastic,” Piccoli said. “The volume of items that we’re able to collect and that we’re able to get back into the hands of the community members just keeps growing.”