Whatcom Magazine

Bellingham store repairs and recycles appliances as it trains workers

Duane Jager, the executive director of Appliance Depot, presides at the depot’s 10th anniversary celebration in September 2015. The nonprofit operation on Marine Drive provides job training while restoring and recycling used appliances.
Duane Jager, the executive director of Appliance Depot, presides at the depot’s 10th anniversary celebration in September 2015. The nonprofit operation on Marine Drive provides job training while restoring and recycling used appliances. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

It has been 10 years since Duane Jager opened the Appliance Depot. The Ohio transplant has a lot to be proud of, and he has the numbers to back it up.

“We’ve received 40,000 appliance donations from 25,000 donors in that time, and sold over 10,000 refurbished appliances,” he says. “We’ve generated $2.5 million in revenue by converting trash to treasure.”

The Appliance Depot is part of ReUse Works, a nonprofit organization. The depot’s mission is to collect used appliances from Whatcom County residents, and to train people in the process.

Up to 20 percent of the appliances can be reconditioned, with the rest stripped for reusable parts and recycled for scrap metal. Salvageable appliances are repaired in the nonprofit’s 2,000-square-foot shop and sold in the showroom at 802 Marine Drive.

As far as we know, there’s no other business model quite like this.

Duane Jager, executive director, Appliance Depot

The training-oriented operation is staffed, in part, by people sent by social service agencies, including the Opportunity Council, WorkSource, and Northwest Youth Services. Since 2005, Jager, the depot’s executive director, and his staff have provided work experience and job training for 400 county residents.

“Most trainees have little or no work history, or nothing recent in their work history,” Jager says. “While we don’t train technicians, we work with soft skills, like customer service, and give these folks a good work reference and recent work history they can take to their next job.”

Revenue from selling the fixed-up appliances supports the training program.

“Basically, we’re taking discarded human resources and wasted resources and bringing them together to create a locally sustainable enterprise,” Jager says. “As far as we know, there’s no other business model quite like this.”

For Bellingham and Ferndale residents, the depot will pick up appliances for free, although there’s a recycling fee for refrigerators and freezers, which is refundable if the appliance can be reused.

Residents outside of Bellingham and Ferndale must bring their donated appliances to the warehouse, unless depot workers can make a swap while delivering a a reconditioned appliance to the same household.

Appliance Depot

To recycle appliances and support training opportunities, call 360-527-2646 or see appliancedepotbham.com.

  Comments