Envera is a nonprofit that sells lost luggage and its contents. Proceeds create jobs for people with mental and physical challenges.

Lost luggage finds a new home at this Spanish nonprofit

In Spain, some 20,000 unclaimed suitcases now sit in airport warehouses. Envera, a nonprofit group, has found a way to give the contents of this lost luggage a new home. 

The World

Envera is a nonprofit that sells lost luggage and its contents. Proceeds create jobs for people with mental and physical challenges. 

Gerry Hadden/The World

On a recent morning, a luggage handler wheeled a dolly teetering with suitcases down a crowded hall. But he was not headed for the airport baggage carousels — in fact, he was two miles from Barcelona’s airport, at a shopping mall.

The handler stopped at a small store called Envera, where manager Jonatan Romero signed for the long-unclaimed bags. 

“This is a space where we take in all the lost objects found in airports and on airplanes,” Romero said. “Anything that gets lost and is not claimed, we take and open.”

Airports around the world are still struggling to find workers to keep up with the post-pandemic travel rebound. As a result, this summer has seen a record number of lost bags. In Spain, some 20,000 suitcases now sit in airport warehouses. Many never get claimed. So Envera, a nonprofit group, has found a way to give the bags — and their contents — new homes.

Staff members sort the contents, sterilize everything, assign prices and sell them.

“We donate second-hand clothes,” he said. “We’ve got scuba suits and gear, ski boots, curling irons and hair dryers.”

Perusing these shelves feels a bit like rummaging through someone else’s private stuff — sunglasses, cheap souvenirs and fridge magnets, flip-flops, hats, books, bikinis.  

Enerva is a nonprofit that sells the contents of lost luggage in Spain.

Enerva is a nonprofit that sells the contents of lost luggage in Spain. 

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

At Envera, proceeds create jobs for people with mental and physical challenges. Staff member Manoli Martín has a badly herniated disk and had to give up mainstream work. 

“We’re going to open one of the newly arrived suitcases,” she said with a smile. “Let’s see what surprises we find inside.” 

Martín unzipped the little carry-on, imprinted with a Big Ben photo on the outside. On the inside, it was packed with stuff, such as a fake plastic license plate from Granada, a souvenir bowl from Thailand and stretchy rubber exercise bands. She said it’s the kind of item that will sell quickly and for cheap. The mint-condition suitcase itself will go for about $15. 

Lots of keychains and other travel souvenirs lost in transit find a second life at Envera.

Lots of keychains and other travel souvenirs lost in transit find a second life at Envera. 

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

But this week’s oddest item, Martín said, was a self-massaging mat, basically a yoga mat covered in tiny, blunted nails. 

The tiny shop, located right across from a giant Carrefour supermarket, attracts customers as they pay for their items on their way out. 

Customer Ana Treciera popped over to rummage through Envera’s kids section while her husband waited by the grocery cart.

“Today, I’m buying this wooden choo-choo train for our 2-year-old,” she said.

The price: 2 euros, about $1.92. Most everything here is marked down at least 70%.

“We’ve bought lots of stuff here,” Treciera said. "Shoes, toys. I think we pick up something every time we come grocery shopping.”

Though somewhere, there might just be another toddler who had a good cry when he lost his train. But one kid’s loss is another’s gain. 

Envera is located within a supermarket, making it very easy for customers to stop in on a regular basis to find something special.

Envera is located within a supermarket, making it very easy for customers to stop in on a regular basis to find something special. 

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

“It’s a circular system,” manager Romero said.  “We give second life to these items so that we don’t need to keep manufacturing more.”

But make no mistake, Romero said. This is not a second-hand store.

 “In a second-hand store you buy stuff people didn’t want,” he said. “Here, we sell things people did want — but lost. There’s a huge difference.”

There may be an element of tragedy to it all. But Romero said the lost belongings are of the highest quality. And the proceeds are for a good cause.

Envera sells clothing that's been lost in transit but it's not a second-hand shop, the manager says.

Envera sells clothing that's been lost in transit but it's not a second-hand shop, the manager says. 

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

Once in a while, Envera workers open a suitcase and find some kind of identification. In those cases, they contact the owner. 

Once, Romero said, it was a pretty famous guy. The first clue was a trophy inside the suitcase: The Golden Cleat, professional indoor soccer’s highest award.

“I think the owner’s name was Ricardinho,” he said. “It was his trophy, which he’d clearly lost, but we found.”

Ricardo Filipe da Silva Braga, popularly known as Ricardinho, is considered the best professional indoor soccer player in history. 

And he went down to Envera to get his golden cleat back.

Related: As summer travel kicks off in Europe, airline strikes could thwart holiday plans

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