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May 2006
Ways to Reuse City Refuse
By Kymberlie Adams Matthews



I am a trash connoisseur. Dozens of scary dolls, vintage pins, random beads and buttons, pencils, stencils, books, furniture and other flotsam have found their way into my home. It turns out, I am not the only one.

While stats on the popularity of yard sales, garage sales, junk stores, thrift, secondhand and consignment shops are hard to come by, one need only look at how busy they are on a Saturday morning to know that shabby chic is truly trendy.

It’s also ethical. Using things many times over instead of just once keeps them from becoming waste. Plus many pieces, parts and scraps can be recycled into something new. With the help of the following groups it couldn’t be easier to do.

Garbage Scout
Are you a stoop sale addict? A collector of knickknacks, bric-a-brac and keepsakes? Do you stop every time you pass a piece of furniture discarded on the side of the street? Well, if you are anything like me, Garbage Scout is a dream come true. I’m in a state of bliss over this model of sustainable swapping. The world is your dumpster. And now you can share the wealth. Camera phone snapshots and text messages are added to an interactive online mapping system that allows you to alert other bargain hunters to go and fetch. So, take a phone photo and send a description to or see what treasures await at

Build it Green at the BIG! Warehouse

Did you ever wonder what happens to all the material left after a building is demolished? Or the surplus of supplies after they build a new one? Well, Build it Green, New York City’s only nonprofit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials, works to reduce construction and demolition waste, while providing low cost building materials to the general public. In addition to salvaged materials, this spring the BIG! Warehouse will become a source for green building materials, including non-toxic paint, cellulose insulation and lighting and environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies. Co-sponsored by Habitat-NYC and the Community Environmental Center, all proceeds from Build it Green support the environmental education center Solar One. From kitchen appliances to plumbing and lumber, visit the BIG! Warehouse at 3-17 26 Avenue (at 4 Street), Astoria, Queens, (718) 777-0132,

Materials for the Arts
In the late 1970s a young artist, named Angela Fremont, heard the Central Park Zoo was looking for a refrigerator to house medicines for the animals. She made an on-air appeal through a local radio station securing a new refrigerator within minutes. From that, the idea for Materials for the Arts was born. Today, 3,224 arts programs are supplied with materials gathered from companies that no longer need them. Registered recipients can shop at their Long Island warehouse for hundreds of items, including office furnishings, computers, household items, ladders, telephones, answering machines, etc. They also improve arts education by supplying schools with materials. To become a recipient or a donor, contact (718) 729-3001 or

Grassroots, nonprofit and free. Three words that ring a bell with me. The Freecycle Network—started in May 2003 to promote waste reduction—provides members with an electronic forum to “recycle” any unwanted items. When you want to find a new home for something, or acquire something new, simply send an email. The Freecycle concept has since spread to over 50 countries, where there are thousands of local groups with more than a million members—truly a grassroots wildfire of people “changing the world one gift at a time.” As a result, they are keeping approximately 50 tons a day out of landfills! Freecycle lives the motto, “Think globally, recycle locally.” Visit

From treadmills to scrap lumber, couches to an extraordinary list of stoop sales, no one can deny the power of Craigslist. Whether it’s an apartment for rent or a Mr. Potato Head to part with, you are sure to find a taker. And if you are looking for something in particular, simply search the item lists or put an ad in the Wanted section. Visit Craigslist at

Founded in September 1995, eBay is now the world’s hot spot for secondhand goods. Today more than 100 million members from around the world come to eBay to buy and sell items in thousands of categories. From toasters to tools, dolls to disco balls, cars to clothing, members have the option to purchase and sell items in an auction-style set-up. Beware, it’s addictive. Log on to

RecycleNet Corporation has launched Waste.Net, an umbrella network of regional waste exchanges designed to aid companies, governments and private citizens in waste minimization efforts. This free exchange system allows you to buy, sell or trade waste or byproduct materials such as acids, chemicals, solvents, plastics and rubber. Over 2.5 million people use the Waste.Net exchange each month from over 150 countries. Check out


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