There’s a 6,000-square-foot space in a south Edmonton strip mall that offers a truly unique shopping experience.
People who walk through the front doors are visitors, not customers. And there is no cash on the premises; every item is free.
Welcome to the Reuse Centre, a City of Edmonton storefront facility that encourages people to circulate items back into the community rather than sending them to the landfill.
“We want people to think twice before they throw something out," said program manager Kristin Arnot. "These are items previously thought to have had only garbage or recycle as an option."
On average, about 17 metric tonnes of items leave the facility each month.
There are two set of doors at the Reuse Centre, one to drop off donations and the other for people looking to take things away. Donations can also be made at the four EcoStations across Edmonton.
Arnot says about 95 per cent of donated items are accepted.
While Popsicle sticks, hockey pucks, playing cards and picture frames are among the 230 different items that are acceptable, things that can't be donated include books, binders, furniture, clothing and toys. Check out the complete list at edmonton.ca/ReuseCentre (Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.)
Visitors can use a shopping cart or basket to pick up items while browsing through the aisles. The only requirement before leaving is to go to the checkout counter to have all items weighed.
Arnot estimates about half of the items removed from the centre are for practical purposes and the rest for art-related projects. People from all walks of life pass through the doors, from low-income families to arts groups to non-profits to teachers hunting for items for their school classrooms.
"I haven't been here in years. It’s good to be back," said Edmontonian Ally Flater, checking out with three boxes and packing pillows. Behind her, Laura Hess of Beaumont picked up a couple dozen cardboard tubes to support plants in her vegetable garden.
The centre is closed Sunday through Tuesday, so Wednesday is one of the busiest days. “People will spend up to half a day here," said Arnot.
The City of Edmonton opened the Reuse Centre in 2007 as a two-year pilot project but within seven years it had outgrown its original building and became a permanent service for Edmontonians. The Reuse Centre – which makes up 0.2% of the city’s waste services budget - moved to its current facility at 6835 83 Street in 2014.
Arnot said besides the goods, there are educational programs on site--also free--where people can learn about things like repurposing old clothing, bike repairs and space gardening. Your Clothes: A Journey, for example, helps youth understand the impact of fast fashion items, at both global and local levels.
"One of our staff members attended the bike repair workshop and was thrilled to learn how to repair the issues her bike had on her own. There’s a sense of satisfaction about it. This was a sentiment echoed by other attendees as well," Arnot said.
The Reuse Centre, which has a staff of nine along with a team of volunteers, has also established a partnership with the Goodwill Thrift Store and Donation centre to take items that can't be sold there.
Arnot said, “We frequently hear how much (the centre) impacts families, the City’s own Green Shack program, local daycares, schools, community leagues, food banks and even events like Kid’s Fringe. The Reuse Centre allows them to obtain materials within their budgets."