Jackie Norris, president & CEO, Goodwill
Jackie Norris, president & CEO, Goodwill

The Problem: Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa wants to keep donations out of the landfill.

The Innovation: Besides offering the goods at the usual retail centers, Goodwill leased a 25,000-square-foot building near SouthRidge Mall, where clothing and other items are sold by the pound. The local Goodwill branch also participates in a national website that sells items with good profit potential. 

How They Did It: Goodwill has a system of moving merchandise around in a store, hoping it will grab attention, but inevitably there are items that are tough to move. Because the nonprofit has a goal of zero waste — and doesn’t want to send anything to the landfill — it opened a store at 6345 S.E. 14th St.  in December 2010 that now has people coming in hordes, many of them repeat customers.

The place handles 3,600 pounds of donated goods a day. 

The store is open daily, offering 125 tables of merchandise, much of it at 99 cents a pound. The store offers clothing, glassware, purses and jewelry. “This gives people yet another opportunity to buy something that was donated,” said Jackie Norris, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa. “It’s the thrill of the hunt. I personally watched my kids grow out of their clothes every six months.”

What if the item still doesn’t draw interest? It is sold for scrap. Clothing is graded, and a fair share ends up in Africa, where demand is high, Norris said. Other companies strip wire and metals from computers.

The Payoff: The outlet store brings in $25,000 a month. 

In addition, in 2016 alone, Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa kept 21.6 million pounds from local landfills, including the following (in pounds): 

  • Textiles/clothing: 5,761,091 
  • Books: 823,520  
  • Cardboard: 630,470 
  • Shoes: 406,277 
  • Scrap metal: 346,376 
  • Electronic waste (Dell): 360,059
  • Plastics: 201,910 
  • Toys: 119,208 
  • Purses/belts/bags: 33,290 
  • Scrap paper: 3,500