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Wednesday October 5th

Scrap Exchange in Durham provides platform for sustainable practices

<p>Scraps of leather, yarn, and other oddities fill the warehouse that is The Scrap Exchange in Durham.&nbsp;</p>
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Scraps of leather, yarn, and other oddities fill the warehouse that is The Scrap Exchange in Durham. 

The Scrap Exchange is a 27-year-old nonprofit organization located in Durham with a mission to promote creativity, environmental awareness and community through reuse.

Chris Rosenthal, an arts educator from Australia who previously founded a program in her native country called the Reverse Garbage Truck, came to the U.S. on a grant from the Australian arts council to teach others how to start creative reuse centers. She eventually relocated to Durham where she founded The Scrap Exchange.

The Scrap Exchange has 23,000 square feet of space and differs around 170 tons of found waste from landfills annually.

The Executive Director of The Scrap Exchange, Ann Woodward, has been part of the organization since 1993 and has held her current position since 2003. Woodward said The Scrap Exchange is a community-based organization and has worked with all different kinds of organizations including the school system, churches, local arts councils and more.

She said The Scrap Exchange provides a variety of opportunities for involvement including multiple events held on third Fridays. The Scrap exchange holds “Scrappy Hour” classes in the Design Center where guests can enjoy adult beverages and take part in “Wine and Design” inspired classes that make use of the Scrap Exchange materials.

Next week will be the grand opening for Scrap Thrift on April 20 along with a DIY Fest on April 21 as a part of The Scrap Exchange’s weekend-long festivities to celebrate Earth Day weekend.

Scrap Thrift is a part of The Scrap Exchange's plans to expand their footprint regarding conservation resource recovery. Woodward said once they partnered with Cascade Alliance they better understood how the thrift shop could create jobs in the community and be a one stop shop for drop-off. 

“Our aim is to create a fun, engaging experience where guests interact with artists and makers whose work features re-useable materials, attend a couple of “how-to” demonstrations and learn creative reuse skills that promote sustainability and an earth-friendly future,” Marketing Coordinator Diana Shark said in a press release.

Independent Projects 

In addition to the creative outlets that The Scrap Exchange supplies, some local residents have been able to use the space for more technical projects

Peter Reintjes as been using the Scrap Exchange as a resource depot for more than 20 years and was able to create a microbiology machine that stimulated the evolution of bacteria autonomously using resources found at The Scrap Exchange.

Reintjes said he read about the Phage-assisted Continuous Evolution (PACE) apparatus in a Scientific Article that listed the amount of equipment needed to produce it at $30,000. He set about making his first fully autonomous prototype of the model and was able to do so for about $400 dollars by using The Scrap Exchange as a resource.

After continuously working on this design as a hobby for about five years, he said he eventually left his job at the Museum of Life and Science and joined a company founded by a retired professor of microbiology at UNC where he turned his hobby into his job.

There are many biotech start-ups in the Triangle that come and go which means there are a lot of raw materials for chemical laboratories at the Scrap Exchange, Reintjes said.

“The first day I saw the scrap exchange it was obvious to me that it was a technical resource too because there was all these little broken pieces of broken equipment and stuff that I’ve said ‘oh the parts were something I could use’,” he said.

Reintjes is in a group known as “TriDIYBio” who use a small space located in the Scrap Exchange to work on all sorts of DIY technical projects with recycled resources.

“He’s a person that has this information that is so unique,” Woodward said. “I appreciate people that do really just go to town with these materials and make all kinds of things you would have never guessed that you could make from them.”


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