About USE2 Austin – Innovating Resale & Maximizing Reuse

About USE2 Austin

What is a grassroots incubator?

The term grassroots incubator does not have an official definition.  The term reflects USE2’s commitment to pioneering small business models as well as resale markets for basic household goods that are landfilled in large quantities.  The term also captures our commitments to collaboration within and beyond the circular economy and our desire to maintain and foster the ties between resale revenues and positive social impact in our community.

What are "resale by-products"?

Resale stores, think thrift stores, are the predominant means by which household goods enter the circular economy.  Traditional thrift stores successfully resell approximately 55% of the donations they receive.  The remaining 45% are treated as by-products and end up recycled, landfilled or sold into secondary markets.  These “resale by-products” are typically small, dispersed, low value and/or hard to work with materials.

What problem is USE2 Austin addressing?

Vast quantities of small, dispersed, low value goods that have clear and obvious reuse potential are currently landfilled because they are deemed “not worth the time.”  USE2 believes the tools to work successfully with these materials are readily available but cultural distinctions between new and used, an abundance of cheap, easily accessed new goods and the overwhelming flow of second hand goods into resale all create barriers to entrepreneurial efforts.  USE2 is committed to finding ways to effectively circulate the “stuff” we have and reduce the unnecessary consumption of new goods.

What are USE2's goals?

To demonstrate innovative models that develop the economic potential of all household goods.

Hybrid non profits dominate the thrift industry.  These organizations use their valuable social missions to attract donations that they then sell, on shelves or online, one item at a time to the public.  This one to one transactional mode, however, does not capture the value of low priced goods which end up concentrated on the back end of thrift store operations.  USE2’s current demonstration projects return economic potential to resale by-products through aggregation and wholesaling or selling in bulk.  We aggregate reusable bags to sell back to grocery stores, we aggregate binders to sell to university bookstores and in our Neighborhood Reuse Center, we aggregate over 400 categories of materials that serve teachers and schools.  In the language of the circular economy, USE2 is about “cascaded reuse” meaning not all materials benefit from the same value chain.  To achieve high levels of broad reuse requires a variety of business models.

To demonstrate the role of technology in creating efficient, scalable models that maximize reuse.

Beyond eBay style e-commerce, the digital revolution has had a minimal impact on the thrift industry.  Thrift stores manage complex inventories with basic tools.  USE2 believes that maximizing reuse requires applying tech tools that make the fine sorting and aggregating of goods efficient and scalable.  While thrift stores carry the same range of inventory as  big box stores, few people shop resale as they would traditional retail, partly because goods are clumped together in broad undifferentiated categories.   In our Neighborhood Reuse Center, we fine sort materials into highly differentiated categories such as aprons, staplers, calculators and shelf liner.  We are developing a database that captures detailed information such as historical volumes of each category.  The database is meant to be a foundational tool for adapting inventory management software and creating a digital interface for customers.  Beyond serving teachers and schools, a key goal for the Neighborhood Reuse Center is to explore how efficient, automated and scalable we can make our operations.

To blur distinctions between new and used, resale and retail.

The success of the circular economy depends on the public embracing reuse as a cultural norm and the blurring of distinctions between resellers and traditional retailers.   In the apparel industry, norms and models are already shifting.  ThreadUp and Poshmark are bringing second hand clothing into the mainstream and companies such as Urban Outfitters and Patagonia are building reuse into their brands.  USE2 wants to capitalize on the growing interest in reuse and pioneer bringing commonplace, preowned goods such as bags, binders and board games into traditional retail.

Contact Us

wide shot of the shop, Use2 showing things organized in bins, stacks of puzzles, toys

Email us at info@use2.org


2311 Thornton Rd. Unit O 

Austin, TX 78704