January 26, 2022

Panel considers reuse center

Cortland site would provide cheaper unused, recyclable items

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

Tracy Sault, a staffer at Finger Lakes ReUse, works behind the scenes Sept. 17 at the Elmira Road facility, prepping a vintage top for the floor.

A Cortland community committee is looking for feedback from residents and business owners so it can determine whether there is a need and desire for a reuse center where people can buy reusable items, like electronics, at a discounted price.

Take the survey


Attend the meeting

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 2
Where: The community room; The Center for the Arts of Homer, 72 S. Main St., Homer

The Cortland ReUse planning committee has two surveys out — one for business owners and another for residents — to “identify areas of interest, desired services for a reuse center and reuse activities already taking place,” according to a news release from the committee. The surveys are being used to garner interest in the project, leading up to an Oct. 2 meeting on the subject.

“Reuse provides a huge opportunity for our area,” said Kat McCarthy, a member of the committee and Cortland City alderwoman, in the release. “It offers a way to keep materials out of the landfill while creating jobs, increasing revenue and making materials available at an affordable price.”

McCarthy said the concept would differ from the Salvation Army store or Thrifty Shopper in Cortlandville because the organization would look to sell a variety of items those stores don’t already sell, like construction material.

To do all of this, the committee would need to become a nonprofit, with a goal of being self-sustainable, McCarthy said.

She noted it’s an idea that was talked about in 2018, but has gained more support this year among committee members. The idea is that people would donate items such as building materials, electronics, furniture, appliances — which can still be used, but might normally end up in the landfill — and sell it to people at discounted price.

There are already two reuse centers just outside the greater Cortland are — one at the Triphammer Market Place in Lansing and one on Elmira Road in the city of Ithaca. Both are part of Finger Lakes ReUse.

Finger Lakes ReUse is in its 11th year with more than $1.5 million in sales, said Diane Cohen, the executive director.

She also notes the organization typically nets $4,000 a day in sales between the two stores and the average transaction is between $17 and $20.

“We try not to put anything on the floor that’s more than half of what you can get new,” she said.

She said one of the best parts about the process is that “there is very little we actually throw away.”

The two Finger Lakes centers have 40 employees, Cohen said, supplemented with about 70 volunteers and interns.

Cohen said she will be at the meeting to discuss more of the effect of a reuse center on the community — the jobs it can bring, how it helps the environment and more.

McCarthy also said the committee is using the Finger Lakes organization’s business model to determine whether a reuse center should open in Cortland.

“We are very happy that they are doing that. We want to help,” said Robin Elliot, philanthropy coordinator at the Finger Lakes Reuse Ithaca store. “Every county could have a reuse center.”