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In Alachua County, Trash Might Be Your New Office Supplies

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Repurpose Project co-founder Mike Myers will teach attendees how to make two items pictured): a note box, similar to a sticky-note pad, using an old orange juice carton and a roll of paper; and a caterpillar decoration, using a paper-towel roll, bottle caps and repurposed fabric.
Repurpose Project co-founder Mike Myers will teach attendees how to make two items (pictured): a note box, similar to a sticky-note pad, using an old orange juice carton and a roll of paper; and a caterpillar decoration, using a paper-towel roll, bottle caps and repurposed fabric. (Courtesy of Mike Myers)

Alachua County is looking to show that one person’s trash can be another’s coffee table.

To educate residents about how useful repurposing can be, Alachua County’s Office of Sustainability is set to host a lunch-and-learn workshop focused on the benefits of reusing what might otherwise become household trash.

Attendees will learn how to make a note box, similar to a sticky-note pad, using an old orange-juice carton and a roll of paper; and a caterpillar decoration, using a paper-towel roll, bottle caps and repurposed fabric.

“We all know about recycling (because) that’s one of the three R’s that we learn about in elementary school,” Rachel Wayne, a program development specialist at the Alachua County Office of Sustainability, said of the phrase “reduce, reuse recycle.” 

“But we get so preoccupied with recycle that we forget about the reuse part.”

Alachua County, which fell last year from the statewide top spot to seventh in successful recycling, is no stranger to conservation and sustainable activity. This move could be seen as another push toward bettering the community.

“Recycling actually refers to this big industrial process … where old stuff is shredded and melted down and then made into new stuff, but upcycling is really more accessible. It’s very do-it-yourself,” Wayne said. “You’re taking all of these good parts that have been discarded, and you’re making something that’s higher quality out of them as kind of a DIY project.”

The workshop is a joint effort by the Alachua County Office of Sustainability and the Repurpose Project, a non-profit organization in Gainesville aimed at diverting useful materials that some might consider trash away from landfills.

Mike Myers, 70, co-founder of the Repurpose Project, is set to lead the upcycling workshop on Wednesday, March 30, at noon at Alachua County’s administration building at the corner of University Avenue and Main Street.

“The basis of the workshop is to take identifiable things that we usually throw away, like orange juice containers, and to make something else out of them that’s functional and usable,” Myers said.

There has been a noticeable increase in the popularity and interest of repurposing and upcycling in the last 10 years, Myers said, evidenced by the popularity of Pinterest.

The Repurpose Project, located at 1920 NE 23rd Ave. in Gainesville, has a warehouse full of salvaged goods.
The Repurpose Project, located at 1920 NE 23rd Ave. in Gainesville, has a warehouse full of salvaged goods. (Courtesy of Mike Myers)

“If you go there, you’ll see all kinds of stuff that is repurposed,” he said. “It’s a trend, and it’s accepted by the millennials, who are the people that are going to solve these problems that we have.”

Myers, who has worked with recycling for more than 40 years, said that while the process is good for the environment, recycling requires energy and fossil fuels.

“It takes all kinds of energy to take something, melt it down and make something out of it, so we wanted to interrupt that process,” he said. “Repurposing is just a natural interrupt(ion) between reducing and recycling.”

Kylah Rail, 31, a part-time “trash talker,” as the the Repurpose Project calls her, uses repurposed material to make notebooks and collages.

“It’s not like staring at a blank canvas,” she said. “I’m a lot more stimulated by objects that already have their own soul, if you will, and story to them and giving them new life, kind of like reincarnating objects.”

Rail collects old medical journals, school textbooks and yearbooks for collages and to decorate notebooks, which she makes using old cereal boxes and grass paper from the 1980s.

She said she has been buying used items and repurposing them since she was about 14 years old.

“I buy pretty much anything I can used, and I have since I was in high school,” Rail said. “I got into thrift shopping, and so everything from my shoes to my sheets is used.”

About Bradley Norman

Bradley is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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