LONDON, ONT. -- Goodwill Industries Great Lakes representatives are leading a quiet revolution, becoming a world leader when it comes to recycling and reusing.

People have long identified Goodwill Stores as a place to find inexpensive, good condition, used items.

The funding from those sales is then directed to programs that support employment and enterprise in the community.

Goodwill Industries Great Lakes President Michelle Qunityn says the London agency is now taking those concepts in new directions. "We are in the re-use economy and excellent at being in the re-use economy. And we've been recycling for a number of years. But now we have the innovations to take that to the next level."

That next level can come in many different forms. Fanshawe College professors are now running a research project out of Goodwill's White Oaks Road location, looking at ways items like clothes that have run their course can be turned into other items.

Meredith Jones is a Professor in Fanshawe’s Fashion Design program. "Every time you create a new product using diverted textiles it means you’re not using virgin materials that, of course, have a huge environmental footprint," she says.

Even the stuffing in toys and insulation in clothing can come from shredding the fabric of previously used items.The goal is to create an entire manufacturing industry around what is called up-cycling.

Quintyn says that is only the beginning. She chairs the International Sustainability Committee for Goodwill Industries and says they are on the verge of significant breakthroughs on two fronts: mechanical recycling and chemical recycling.

"We're working with innovators out of Silicon Valley in our network that are all of a sudden waking up to the fact that they need to innovate. They've been working on it."

Western University's Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Resources (ICFAR) is also working with Goodwill Great Lakes to develop ways to break down materials to base organic and chemical forms.

Goodwill Great Lakes Vice President of Operations, Hasan Habash, says those items can then be used to create new materials that can be used for everything from agricultural soil enhancers to materials for car parts. "We can take it down to the fibre and actually create a product use for the insulation of automobiles."

Quintyn says one of the other goals is to act in a socially responsible way. She says only materials that can be used responsibly will be sent overseas, with materials dumping in some regions becoming a concern.

Quintyn also says significant partnerships with private industries, institutions and government agencies should be announced in the weeks to come that will have economic and environmental benefits.