Duane Jager

Founding Executive Director
ReUse Works
Purpose Prize Fellow 2013

Jager’s non-profit pairs business with social service to recycle waste into income — and job training for the low-income individuals who need it most.

In 2002, after a 30-year career in social services, Duane Jager linked up with a group of local business people in Bellingham, Wa., to help promote sustainability and environmental protection. He immediately saw how business and social service can be combined for the greater good, and two years later founded ReUse Works, for the purpose of creating jobs from waste.

Job coaches at ReUse Works help low-income individuals learn the soft and hard skills needed to find jobs in a tough economy. The organization’s first spin-off business, Appliance Depot, refurbishes and sells discarded home appliances. Since 2005, in the course of diverting 3000 tons from the waste stream and rebuilding 6000 more tons for sale, Appliance Depot has provided job training for 300 workers, with help from local business and an array of social service agencies.

“Having worked with discarded citizens (the homeless) and discarded materials (the food bank) I saw an entrepreneurial opportunity to create jobs from waste,” says Jager. “This can be replicated in communities of any size.”

As for his encore career, Jager says, “I’m discovering great potential by viewing our waste as a resource, something often ignored by those in the environmental movement.”