Here’s what we saw when we walked into Urban Ore: racks of clothing, a large green metal filing cabinet for $45.00, a drawer full of bolts priced at $2.50/lb, an old Regina floor polisher and scrubber for $8.00, a piece of gymnastic equipment, shelves full of books, light switches for $0.75 a piece, a shopping cart wheel and a steel plated trunk for $75.00, a sign that read Fresh Jimm’s Donuts, a bucket of hot wheels for a dollar each, a barrel full of the right arms off of clothing manikins, a large green dragon head, walkers and walkers with built in bedpans, a nine foot tall pillar with a light on it, a carburetor, an auger for $12.00, a teal-colored oven, a solid wood plank door with wrought iron hardware for $950.00, an Eat Here or To Go sign, a yellow hardhat, a Dremel shoe polisher, a lizard habitat inside a cabinet for $98.00, a wooden artillery shell for $85.00, a grandfather clock for $495, several tiny teacup for $12.00, a set of Dorothy Kindell “The Naughty Potter” knock offs for $50, a purple toilet, 81 other toilets of assorted colors, a jacuzzi, a urinal, a treadmill, a yellow tub and matching toilet, a weed-eater, a set of golf clubs for $4.00, a mini-trampoline for $18.00, an empty 40kg barrel of Mida’s Major Grey’s Mango Chutney best before 10/99, a large chunk of grey marble, a mail box in shingle housing, two parking meter coin collectors on wheels, and a drawer full of shower heads.
Urban Ore is a for profit company founded by Dan Knapp. On the outside it looks like the average thrift or re-store you knew in grade school that turned into a less oddly colored version of the Hulk and who perhaps is wearing one of those inflatable muscle suits.
What became Urban Ore began in the early 1980s as a scavenging business operating on the City of Berkley landfill. Growing from such small beginnings Urban Ore has become a 3-acre facility with 30,000 square feet of retail space. It’s mission, which is printed on every receipt, is to end the age of waste.
In addition to accepting donations of most anything, Urban Ore also will pick up items from people in their area, and they salvage items from the landfill. Everything they end up with is sold at their Ecopark store, which is where we found all the things listed above, as well as 10 million other things.
Most of the things people throw away aren’t really useless. The existence of stores like Urban Ore and the many Habitat Re-Stores are evidence that there’s value and usefulness left in almost everything we discard.