Molly Kendall is the Coordinator at the Resource Work Cooperative, who run the South Hobart Tip Shop. We spoke to her about how the shop works and why they’re seeing an influx in both waste and interest.
How long has the Tip Shop been operating? It’s been here since 1993. The group originally started as just a group of friends who were salvaging from the landfill. They saw everything being dumped. You’d bring your trailer load and pick something up at the same time. So, they started a fledgling business and it grew and grew. It’s a workers cooperative, so it’s a different business model from most businesses.
How does it work? It’s worker owned and run. All the people who work here come to general meetings to decide the operation of the business. It’s not a not for profit, so all of our profits get reinvested into whatever projects the group are passionate about at that time. For example, just last year we agreed as a group to employ an education officer which has been really great at getting the word out there. “Think Second Hand First” is one of the behavioural changes we aim to promote and turning shopping into a treasure hunt rather than a smorgasbord is one of the ways to do that. Second hand goods have a story, they have lived a life before us which often leaves intriguing clues (a note in an old jacket pocket or a name scratched in an old school desk). If you can start to take pleasure in becoming a steward or borrower of goods rather than an “owner” you take better care of your things, and take the time to seek out a better quality of product.
Do the people who work here get paid from the profits of the cooperative? Yes. Our number one goal is to provide work, so if we get excess, whatever we make goes into creating new roles. Everyone who works here is paid. Our goals are providing employment, reducing waste, and educating the public about waste reduction.
Are there any particular types of waste you’re seeing more of? We definitely have a huge boom in e-waste at the moment – people who have been hoarding their devices at home are finally letting them go. There has been a massive shift to minimise and declutter your life which has really had an impact. I think that’s probably reflected in people being more conscientious consumers as well, which is really encouraging.
I guess your long term goal would be to put yourselves out of business? Yes. That’s been a big part of our discussion, about what our future is going to look like. The council have a goal of zero waste. But we’re different from them – they’ve got a zero waste by 2030 goal. So, we’re looking at ways to actually bring in stock now and building that network of suppliers. That might not be the public in the future but there’s definitely a need in industry and local production for the waste that they produce in whatever they’re making. It’s a tricky kind of place that we’re in as a society, that we’re having to fill that buzz we got out of shopping in a different way. Or by buying a secondhand thing and upcycling it ourselves or reclaiming those skills that people would have.
What is potentially here? There’s definitely lots of electronics – we’re a bit different from other op shops or charities because we test electronics. People can buy toasters, toastie makers, juicers or ice cream makers. It’s a good way of experimenting with new appliances, with second hand things.
How many people work here? 29 people work here at the moment but that also includes all the office roles. A few of those people work one day a fortnight and some are here four days a week. Some have been here 20 years and some are pretty new.
Do new members join because they want to or because there’s a job? They join because there’s a job and they’re generally attracted to us as a group because we’re a cooperative. Most of our workers are insanely overqualified. We end up segueing people into different roles and responsibilities. Anyone who puts their hands up gets sucked into all roles.
Where do you advertise jobs? On Seek, in the paper and on www.ethicaljobs.com.au. We have a Facebook page, we have a lot of people who check that for what’s coming in.
What’s on at the Tip Shop right now? Our old tip shop is now used as an education centre and there’s a little mini shop inside that shed selling offcuts from industry. We approached local producers like Blundstone, The Paint Shop, and Tassie made things and asked, “Do you have any offcuts?” Teachers use that resource so they can have second hand school supplies for kids. We run a workshop alongside that open day so people can see what’s happening and learn new things. We’re all excited about deconstruction at the moment – knocking down people’s houses to find goods to supply the stock for our shop. We’ve got a deconstruction coordinator who will be teeing up houses to knock down. We get a crew of 10 or so workers and pull it down by hand. It doesn’t actually take that much longer than bringing in an excavator. Then we take the components of the house and sell them here. We also run a community collection service, so if people have furniture they want to donate and can’t drop it off here, we can pick it up. It’s free but we will check it out so it’s not like a rubbish removal service!
And your annual art exhibition is coming up? Art From Trash opens on the 25th of May at the Long Gallery in Salamanca. Hundreds of people put in artwork from really highly esteemed Tassie artists to kids with paddle pop sticks. Anyone is welcome to enter. It’s not curated at all but an amazing quality of work comes in. Everything has to be waste, so something that would have been in the bin or broken. As soon as people put in a submission, their brain is starting to look in what’s in their bins or recycling boxes. That’s the mental shift we’re looking for.
Check out the Tip Shop and the Resource Work Cooperative at www.resource.coop or visit the shop at the end of McRobies Road, South Hobart.