Have you ever wondered what happens to clothing, furniture, and other goods not sold in traditional outlets such as stores, online platforms, or outlets? Some are sold to third parties that sell returned goods by the pound; some are exported to other countries; some, unfortunately, end up in landfills, while others may be donated to charitable organizations.

Goodwill is perhaps the best-known organization in which businesses and consumers donate used clothing, furniture, and other unwanted goods. In 2021, Goodwill handled an estimated 107 million donations of used goods, totaling around 5.7 billion pounds, according to its sustainability manager, Brittany Dickinson.

There are a number of nonprofit organizations that also distribute donated items to local organizations.

“We believe in getting the right product to the right people at the right time” is the motto for Good360, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Good360 partners with large corporations to source essential goods and distribute them to its network of nonprofit organizations.

Corporate donors include Advance Auto Parts, American Eagle Outfitters, CVS Health, Gap, Inc., Levi Strauss & Company, Mattel, Tempur Sealy International, and UPS.

Amazon, an RLA board member, is also a corporate donor. Employees inspect Amazon returns to determine if they can be resold or donated to such charitable groups. In 2019 and Amazon introduced FBA Donations. The program allows sellers to choose whether they’d like their eligible excess and returned products to be given to charitable organizations.

RLA member, GiveNKind, is a similar organization. Based in Buffalo, NY, GiveNKind assists companies that are looking to offload canceled orders, surplus, and other unused items and goods in a socially and environmentally responsible way. In addition to new, gently used items are also accepted. It then distributes the goods to such organizations as the YWCA, homeless shelters, and foster parents organizations.

Besides serving the Buffalo area, GiveNKind also serves the Chicago metropolitan area, with a second chapter in Carlisle-Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Through these two chapters, charities in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois are served.

Electronics Returns

Accurate data on electronics return rates is scarce. Accenture’s estimate of 11% to 20% of consumer electronics are returned dates to at least 2011 and is likely a very conservative estimate.

Such items often require special handling, security assurances, and proper disposal if applicable. Government regulations and certification may be required.

There are a number of nonprofit organizations that specialize in electronics returns and disposal.

One such organization is eWorks Electronics Services Inc., which provides recycling, refurbishment, and resale services of office and industrial technologies and consumer electronics, including computers, tablets, servers, monitors and LCDs, scanners, copiers and network equipment, power supplies, TVs, stereos, cell phones, and household appliances.

The nonprofit was established in 2009 to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities and has locations in Chicago and New York.

Meanwhile, Digitunity’s mission is to ensure everyone who needs a computer has one. Through its Digital Opportunity Network, which comprises 1,500 organizations across the US, donors, and recipients are connected. In addition, the group assists state and local governments in creating digital equity plans to expand connected devices to those in need.

The circular economy benefits from reverse logistics nonprofit organizations by eliminating waste and recirculating goods.

For more information on each of these nonprofit organizations, please visit their websites:

Good360 - https://good360.org/

GiveNKind - https://givenkind.org/

eWorks Electronics Services Inc - https://eworksesi.org/

Digitunity - https://digitunity.org/

Tony Sciarrotta is Executive Director of the Reverse Logistics Association. The RLA offers various tools, white-papers, and monthly webinars that provide best practices in managing reverse logistics.

This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2023 issue of PARCEL.