Making Materials Matter
NextFab North Philly, in conjunction with The Resource Exchange hosted the highly successful Making Materials Matter forum on October 22nd. The forum focused on sustainability and accountability in the arts, our work as makers and in our daily lives.
While the discussion of our role in a sustainable future can be an uneasy one, the conversation and great work being done by individuals and organizations was inspiring. Topics covered included responsible sourcing, upcycling, recycling and partnerships that make responsible material use possible and efficient.
The moderator for the evening was the dynamic Alex Mulcahy of the local environmental magazine, Grid. The forum panelists represented a wonderfully diverse set of perspectives and included:
Karyn Gerred, Executive Director of The Resource Exchange, a salvage/upcycle/recycle shop.
Nic Esposito, Zero Waste and Litter Director from the City of Philadelphia.
Angela McQuillan, Curator of the Esther M. Klein Gallery.
Sara Lepori, Economic Development Zones Manager of the City of Philadelphia.
Tiffany Threadgould, Chief Design Junkie from TerraCycle, a super recycling company.
Angela Vosburgh, Creative Director & Manager of Kevin O’Brien Studios, a local textiles company.
It made me pause and think about where things come from and where they go after I use them. It really inspired me to be more thoughtful about what I buy in the future. – PJ Sedgwick, attendee
TerraCycle is a company that recycles things that wouldn’t ordinarily be reclaimed to the recycling stream. This includes cigarette butts and dirty diapers. However, they also find creative methods of reusing the precious materials that most would call garbage. Tiffany Threadgould, Chief Design Junkie from TerraCycle, does cool things with materials like plastic shopping bags. For instance, by fusing together Target shopping bags, she made a dress fit for the runway. TerraCycle uses this same process to make sturdy reuseable bags from disposable plastic bags and packaging.
The Resource Exchange will take materials from art supplies to lumber. And not only are they great for upcycling your old materials, but you are sure to find something valuable for your next project in their shop. You might even find your next project there. Founded in 2009, their initial focus was in reclaiming materials from film and theater sets. Consequently, their inventory was incredibly diverse and interesting. In their first year, they saved over 30 tons of what was once considered “waste” for reuse. They also helped to divert over 600 tons of would be landfill fodder for recycling. Since then they have grown to be a leader in the Philadelphia salvage market.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of member work that focuses heavily on repurposed materials. Machelle Nettles’ jewelry is a great example of recontextualizing “waste material.” Her jewelry uses recycled metals and salvaged scientific glass to beautiful effect.
From city recycling programs to companies like TeraCycle turning cigarette butts into items such as park benches and railroad ties – there are a lot of exciting things happening with recycling. Nic Esposito explains, “We do household hazardous waste drop-off programs once a month. We are expanding e-waste collection – anything with a plug, you can bring and drop off at our convenience centers.” Philadelphia businesses are also making it easier. Mom’s Organic Market takes a wide variety or recyclables such as snack bags, old shoes and Christmas lights during the holidays. BestBuy and Staples recycle electronics and H&M will recycle your old clothes. These are great additions to Philadelphia’s curbside recycling program.
And what about NextFab? NextFab does a number of things from sawdust and wood scrap collection and recycling to metal recycling. NextFab provides scrap bins in each shop at every location for members to reuse and pick from with no additional charge. Wood, metal, foam and acrylic scrap is readily available in the scrap bins. In addition, NextFab uses E-Force Compliance, who are a committed local recycling company in South Philly who tailor their recycling program to specific organizations based on their needs.
NextFab and The Resource Exchange