Kurt and Andrea Mattioda are big proponents of recycling and reusing.
When the 2008 recession hit and Kurt lost his union job, the couple decided to recycle metals to make ends meet, operating their business on their lawn with “a Mazda pickup truck and a little, dinky 2,000-pound forklift,” Kurt said.
Those were the good old days, he recalled, when China was buying up any kinds of recyclable material — paper, electronics, metal — making it easy to make a profit.
China may no longer be interested in being the world’s biggest recycling importer any more, but the Mattiodas’ business is still going strong, having just reopened Enumclaw Recyclers and The Use Again Store, their retail venture, at a new location at 2032 Garrett St. in Enumclaw.
Customers who visited their previous location at the end of Cole Street may recall a cramped warehouse, filled from top to bottom with all manner of previously used items.
This is no longer the case — the new location on Garrett is around 13,000 square feet, which includes their warehouse space out back, more than three times the space they had before.
Not only is their space bigger, but they’ve also tripled their staff and lengthened their hours of operation — 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, though the drop-off center closes around 4:30. They’re also open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
BREAKING THROUGH CONSUMERISM CULTURE
In a recent interview, Kurt bemoaned the general American attitude against reducing, reusing and recycling — not just on the consumer’s side of the equation, but also the producer’s side.
“Every single person in America has got something they need to get rid of,” Kurt said. “It’s the consumerism mentality — you buy, buy, buy, buy, buy, or the manufacturers push it down your throat. You need a new dishwasher every seven years nowadays. They don’t last. They’re junk.”
He hopes that when customers come to The Use Again Store, they consider how they can reduce the amount of things they buy, reuse they items they already have, and recycle them when they’ve outlasted their usefulness, even though that sort of thinking is antithetical to a business model that thrives on consumerism.
So although the new building The Use Again Store inhabits is completely new, most — if not all — of the items inside it, from the shelves holding items for sale to the furniture in the break room, were brought in from the old location or gifted to the Mattiodas from other local businesses.
Their son also makes artwork from scrap metal, which is featured in The Use Again Store — just look up, Kurt said.
“The goal really needs to be for people to reduce,” he continued. “Reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink.”
This isn’t just a philosophy for his business, but his life.
“I don’t go to the store any more. I haven’t gone to the store in years… clothes, shoes, cars, forklifts, everything we get is reused,” he said.
And the benefits are more than just saving money and materials.
“It saves a lot of energy. It takes a lot of energy to remanufacture something,” Kurt said. “It takes a lot less energy to reuse than it does to recycle.”
E-CYCLE PROGRAM PARTNER
Beyond recycling metal and selling used items, Enumclaw Recyclers is also business partners with the Washington state’s Department of Ecology’s E-Cycle program, which recycles items like televisions, computers, DVD players and more.
These items, Ecology’s website says, contain toxic chemicals like lead, cadmium and mercury, so recycling these electronics keeps these chemicals out of landfills and the environment.
“Most of the electronics are disassembled for recycling here in Washington,” the website continues. “Some electronics go out-of-state for processing and some materials are exported for recycling at approved facilities. The goal of the program, however, is to prevent electronics from being exported to countries with weak hazardous waste regulations.”
In 2018 alone, Ecology processed nearly 2 million pounds of electronics, the vast majority being televisions. Since the program started in 2009, more than 390 million pounds of electronics have been collected.
Enumclaw Recyclers joined the program five years ago, said Christine Huan, E-Cycle Washington program coordinator, and has collected close to 1.3 million pounds of electronics.