Typical landfill hellscape scenes involve plastic shopping bags and disposable diapers. But Drew Dawson sees vinyl windows. Demolition sites create huge quantities of waste, he explains, because “people are in a hurry and it costs more to sift through.” Dawson is executive director at the ReUse Center, a local nonprofit that sells salvaged building materials to the public at a deep discount.
The place is a flipper’s paradise: a massive former factory in South Fairmount packed with sinks, cabinets, tubs, and countertops. But most common are windows and lumber, plus doors—rows and rows of them, old and new. The ReUse Center takes social impact seriously, too, which is why they run a job training program for at-risk youth with little work experience. “It’s mainly a regular job,” explains Dawson, “but we also give life skills training—basics like the importance of showing up on time, having a good work attitude. After six months, we can go to another employer and say, ‘This person is trained and they have a good track record.’” The ReUse Center’s multi-pronged approach is a grand vision of what’s possible for our future—one where we don’t throw away things or people.