Thunderbird Salvage is a unique business that keeps a wide range of goods out of landfill by salvaging them and making them available to the public to have a second (and third and fourth) life. They provide a welcoming, inclusive space that prices items and events affordably and rarely turns anyone away–even for job opportunities. If you love saving things from the trash or landfill, hard work, and good people, the Thunderbird team welcomes you with open arms.
Thunderbird’s owner, George Mathes, is also a huge history buff. He appreciates the history of Philadelphia and knows much about its history, historic buildings and places–including the original, past, and present stewards of this land, which is why their name is an homage to those indigenous communities.
Why did you become a member?
I believe in what Circular Philadelphia is doing. I believe it is good for our health and our environment. I think a symbiotic relationship between Thunderbird and CP would be mutually beneficial.
I salvage and other Circular Philadelphia organizations will be salvaging and there will be more opportunities to benefit us all by diverting things from the landfill, reclaiming value, and working together.
What does a circular economy mean to your organization?
It means that a business like Thunderbird can continue on with pursuing other projects, and continue to grow. So few salvage or circular businesses exist, so when another business comes out and has similar goals and wants to collaborate, it is mutually beneficial, and we are always in!
Thunderbird believes in collaboration over competition and our entire team understands the importance of a circular economy. For instance, Thunderbird is currently expanding our community outreach, and we believe Circular Philadelphia can help with that. We also hope to support CP and other member organizations by providing our operational knowledge of how to run a salvage business. When we all bring our strengths to the table, we can help each other grow.
Having a salvage business means meticulously inspecting every aspect of what could be salvaged, not being too selective, and knowing there is no such thing as being too creative. We look forward to ensuring that we can save as much from the landfill as possible. Thunderbird truly sees trash as treasure.
Our economy won’t support these beautiful handmade items of the past, so we need to save them while we still can. So many valuable assets are literally thrown out every day. We need to reuse items that will never be re-made; handmade items from the past that will never be re-made because our contemporary culture believes “it would cost too much” to pay artisans for such work.
I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together with legislation, deconstruction/construction materials, and more!
How is your organization practicing circularity?
We harvest goods from places where most likely everything will otherwise be thrown away and/or destroyed, and we take all of it to one location, process it, and distribute it to many other places that could benefit from or reuse these items.
Like farmers, we believe that re-distributing these goods to different stakeholders in the community is a way to give back to or nurture our community. There are people with needs and people who need to get rid of stuff. We try and close that circle or loop in as many ways as we can with the hard-working and talented hands that we have on deck.
Very few people realize what Thunderbird does. We take EVERYTHING that we get and process it to its fullest potential. We try to eliminate as much waste as possible and that is no small task.
Other vintage resellers receive goods from an auction house and curate their offerings – which is awesome! Our structure is a little different. We do not know anyone else who functions or operates the way that we do.
Even when we host events, we try to eliminate as much waste as possible by processing it ourselves: we reuse as much as we can for other events or in the storefronts. When it comes to recycling, we deliver cans to the scrap yard ourselves instead of using curb recycling, etc.
How can others advance the circular economy?
A lot of people create a lot of waste but have things that are in fact reusable. Take it to a location where it can be kept out of the trash and have someone else appreciate it who needs it. In short: DONATE STUFF to local organizations that salvage things!
Everybody should be taking advantage of reused items and be able to access items that have been salvaged. We try to make our prices affordable, especially for everyday items. We price really rare or valuable items appropriately, but if you need everyday items for your home (i.e. kitchen items, linens, etc.) you can buy them here cheaper than anywhere new. In short: buy from local salvage companies like Thunderbird whether you are shopping for something mundane or really special.
It’s easier than you think. Once you make it known that you are a salvager, that you are someone who saves and re-distributes items that could be reused, people tune into you, and you become a resource for your community. There are not enough of us salvagers in the world. We are like rare treasure hunters. We find simple elegant beauty in privies in backyards – those bottles buried beneath your concrete slab. Those bottles can be used as decor in your homes or for special occasions. We search through storage units and homes that need to be cleaned out and find things you’ve been searching for or never knew existed.
If we don’t work in a circle, then we will not be able to sustain a good environment or healthy/beneficial lifestyle.