Big Blue Recycling Barn in yolo county giving trash a second chance
Yolo County waste officials are aiming to turn other people’s trash into a do-it-yourself treasure trove with their new Big Blue Recycling Barn Thrift Store at the county dump.
The Yolo County Central Landfill stocks the store with cut-priced items previously bound for waste piles in hopes of selling to do-it-yourselfers, small businesses and local families.
Marissa Juhler, who runs the store, said it sold about half of its inventory within three hours of its grand opening June 3.
“There is a hierarchy in the world of waste,” Juhler said. “A lot of people think recycling is the highest and best use … but reusing the item is even better.”
Juhler expects that about 90 percent of revenue will cover the cost of operation, but any profit the store earns will fund recycling education and outreach programs, she said.
The main purpose of the store, Juhler said, isn’t to make money but rather to divert bulky items from the landfill, where hills of waste rise above the farmland between Davis and Woodland.
Waste management workers have been setting aside inventory for months and plan to reopen the store in late summer or early fall, depending on inventory, the county said on its website.
In the meantime, visitors to the landfill have the option to unload reusable items in the drop-off area beside the entry gate.
“Some of the vehicles (that arrive at the landfill) are what we consider self-haul, so like your mom and pops just cleaning out their garage,” Juhler said. “But we also have really large loads – especially those that come from construction sites – that have good usable lumber in them, pieces of dry wall, doors, windows, all kinds of those different building materials.”
Juhler said small-business owners and landlords have reached out to her about buying construction supplies at the thrift store.
The store can adapt to customer needs, she said. For instance, local beekeepers prefer certain kinds of wood to build their hive boxes, and workers have been setting those woods aside, Juhler said. Wooden pallets are popular with crafters and will be stocked at the store, she said.
The Yolo barn was modeled on Habitat for Humanity’s national chain of nonprofit ReStores, Juhler said.
The chain includes a ReStore in Sacramento that diverts 800,000 pounds of materials from Sacramento’s waste stream every year, Habitat officials said. Despite selling its items at 30 to 70 percent below market value, the Sacramento ReStore makes about $823,000 every year. The money helps pay for the homes that Habitat for Humanity builds for low-income families.
ReStore manager Byron Watkins said repurposing can help save homeowners money on remodeling and furnishings. He works with companies to donate goods they wouldn’t be able to sell and would otherwise throw out or destroy.
“Anything that is unusable or unsellable, we try to recycle,” Watkins said.
The ReStore sells used furniture, appliances and building materials to the public at bargain prices.
One common way the Restore recycles is by stripping the wood from broken furniture and turning it into mulch, Watkins said.
The Yolo County recycle barn doesn’t have the money or manpower to fix up items, such as repairing rusty bikes or repainting old furniture. But Juhler hopes people will buy items to tinker with anyway. The landfill has a free household-hazardous-waste area, where the public can pick up donated paint, stains, pool chemicals and car products to use in projects, she said.
Davis resident Deborah Zhang brought her family to the Yolo County store’s opening in early June.
“We go around to a lot of thrift stores just for fun. It’s a hobby. So when we saw that this was opening we were like, ‘OK, let’s go,’ ” Zhang said.
Juhler said she hopes that in a few years the Big Blue Recycling Barn will have as much impact in Yolo County as the ReStore has had in Sacramento.
The Big Blue Barn is at the Central Landfill, 44090 County Road 28H in Woodland. For store hours, go to www.yolocounty.org and click on the Central Landfill heading under the Community Services tab, or call Juhler at 530-666-8813.