Giving items a second chance one project at a time

By Nicole Irving, Publisher and Editor-In-Chief

As we turned the corner to find parking at The Repurpose Project, an art sculpture that resembled a child’s play set gone awry welcomed us. Its eclectic set of toys and household items were held together by wire ties that seemed to be placed methodically and with love. The goal: to create art with lost items. This is the true meaning of repurposing and the million of The Repurpose Project.

“A community based effort to divert useful resources from the landfill, redirect these items to the public for art and education, inspire creativity and help us all rethink what we throw away.”

The Repurpose Project Mission Statement

Originally opened in a building off Main Street in Gainesville, Florida in January 2012, The Repurpose Project, a 501 3C, was founded “…to divert usable materials from the landfill… to focus on all usable items that traditional thrift stores don’t accept,” said co-founder Sarah Goff.

And, as you walk through the building, it is apparent how much they are working to succeed at their mission. The paths are clustered with items from jewelry to keys and antiques to old file folders. You would think that organization doesn’t exist, but it does. Need a magnifying glass, as I did for my son’s science fair project? They have it! And, they know right where it is. I was led by team member Lynn Polke to a drawer on a cluttered shelf, which she opened with ease, and found five of them. Success!

Although their main goal is to create new uses for what otherwise might make its way to our landfills, The Repurpose Project has done more than that. It has created conversations and creativity among the community.

“We have noticed a remarkable thing in our store…our customers talk to each other and help each other,” said Goff. “On a regular basis we see complete strangers start talking in our aisles about what project they are working on and how they can make ‘something else’ work for the part they were looking for. We love that and want to encourage it!”

Another one of their goals, according to Goff, is to increase personal interactions amongst a society that spends so much time shopping and looking at screens. During our time there, people were chatting, and I even saw a teenager rummaging through keys and a couple talking about a new project they had in the works.

Today, the retail store takes up the majority of the space on the property, but Goff explains that the long-term goal of The Repurpose Project is to continue the development of their event area, which will include a stage, trash sculpture garden, cafe, play areas and a workshop room where DIY classes will be held.

And, in case you don’t get any creative ideas for any of the items inside of the store, such as repurposing jewelry, cups or paperclips, the outside space lends itself to a plethora of potential crafts. Amid tile, toilets, pots, chairs, fi le cabinets, mirrors and old shutters, Mike Meyers, co-founder, showed us the true mission of The Repurpose Project. He held up a shiny, brand new showerhead. Never used and saved from a doomed life in a landfill, he asked us, “What ELSE could this be used for?” We promptly played along and exclaimed “A flower pot! A lamp! A paper weight!” And that, he said, is the ultimate repurpose project.

Our Earth is gradually being depleted of its natural resources and bombarded with items slated for the landfill, some before their time. The Repurpose Project gives items a second chance, and with that, a chance for our children’s children to enjoy our beautiful Earth.

Info from Sarah, co-founder of the repurpose project

What kind of products do you carry? We specifically try to carry items that traditional thrift stores do not: art supplies, craft supplies, broken things that can be repurposed into other things, office supplies, building supplies — anything art worthy!

How can people drop off items? They can drop off items during business hours, Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Trash? Don’t think so!!! A spinal cord came in the other day! We were so excited! We have some dental chairs that we want to use in our event area on a medical waste themed deck, so now we have a spinal cord to add to that area.

Upcoming dates for events: Our Spring Workshop, aimed to reduce waste and teaching people how to fix broken items, will be announced soon.

Friday nights through April 22 – Trash Fashion Workshops

April 22 – repurpose Project runway, Trash Fashion Show

April 23 – Spring gleaning Festival and Flea Market


The Repurpose Project has been having a lot of dumping while closed. This is a stress on our small organization because we don’t have the resources to move and dispose of these large items, such as mattresses. Please do not dump.