One person's trash is another person's treasure.
November 28, 2012 4:55 PM   Subscribe

One person's trash is another person's treasure. What do certain industries throw out that can be repurposed for free?

Example: I walked into a bike shop and asked for a flat bicycle tube because I needed a bungee cord to strap groceries to my bicycle. They gave it to me, because bike shops don't need punctured bicycle tubes.
posted by aniola to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Intelligence agencies destroy classified documents, and are then left with a pulp that is often thrown out. Two agencies in the US repurpose theirs into pizza boxes and flower pots.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:11 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

One of the local newspapers in my area gives away the ends of the rolls of newsprint to anyone who comes to pick it up. There is a lot of paper left for people to use but not enough to run through the printer.
posted by Swisstine at 5:15 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Boxes at the grocery store. If you ask in enough time, they'll open them more carefully when they're stocking and they'll put them aside for you. It's an awesome thing during a move.
posted by cooker girl at 5:21 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Boxes. Leftover food. Wood pallets.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:22 PM on November 28, 2012

If you're ever in Mountain View, Ca, you can get free fabric samples that would normally be thrown away by interior decorators at FabMo.
posted by tinymegalo at 5:25 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

One good thing about PA is the availability of liquor boxes from the state liquor stores. It's the only good thing about the state liquor stores.

Back in the day, my Girl Scout troop used to get hundreds of empty film canisters from the film shops, which we turned into little kits, arts and crafts, and piezo poppers (a sort of rocket thing.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:27 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

The bins outside grocery stores have (literally) heaps of fruit and veg just past it's best - perfect for composting.
posted by trialex at 5:30 PM on November 28, 2012

Shipping containers.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:35 PM on November 28, 2012

Five-gallon buckets from, among other places, bakeries.
posted by box at 5:38 PM on November 28, 2012

Photolabs/print shops would let veterinarians take their used fixer (sodium thiosulfate) to be used in treating horses for fungal skin infections.
posted by Sophont at 5:39 PM on November 28, 2012

Our local food pantry gives overly-ripe/rotten veggies to a number of farmers who then feed it to their animals.
posted by belladonna at 5:49 PM on November 28, 2012

Coffee grounds from the local cafe for your compost.
posted by mannequito at 5:56 PM on November 28, 2012

A friend of mine just landscaped her yard w bits & pieces from the junk pile at a place which does custom counter tops from cut stone. Granted, she knew someone who worked there, but perhaps there's an opportunity to be seized in your area.

While some garden centers sell their cast-off flower commercial flower pots (25 cents per is the highest price in my area), others give them away. One place I worked had a pile the length of their warehouse and as tall as the tractor. They were delighted when people wanted to root through it. Most of it was the crappy black & green stuff plants come in, but there were some real gems buried in there too.

If you really want to hit the lottery on reclaimed items, though, get a job with a company that cleans out apartments after people leave (die, get evicted). You would not believe what people leave behind, even when they've had plenty of time to pack & plan.
posted by Ys at 5:59 PM on November 28, 2012

Panera gives their day-old bread and baked goods to local food pantries, hunger relief groups, churches, and other nonprofits each day.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:00 PM on November 28, 2012

Coffee grounds from the local cafe for your compost.

Ditto hair from barbers / salons.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:01 PM on November 28, 2012

I used to volunteer at an organization that re-purposed corporate office supplies for teachers who needed classroom items. One of the biggest things was when companies re-branded or merged and had tons of letterhead, envelopes, mugs, and other things with their old logos. Kids didn't care and worksheets could be printed on the back side of any logo'ed letterhead.
posted by JannaK at 6:01 PM on November 28, 2012

Hospitals are a source of craft supplies and tools. Sometimes I've walked in just to ask if there were any plaster bandage scraps/offcuts/roll-ends I could have, and there were. (Be patient though - people are busy with things that matter - you don't want to take anyone's time away from that, and likewise you don't want to be in any line ahead of someone with more pressing concerns - which is everyone :-) )

Other times I've been there for legitimate reasons, and just noticed an opportunity - when I was injured once, they used a disposable wound kit, so I asked if I could have it afterwards. Years later I still use the hemostats from that kit, and there is something... a bit like monogrammed stationary... about knowing that that bloodstain came from me :-)

Likewise, syringes can be useful for precision application of oil or glue, and there is no shortage of them thrown out.
posted by anonymisc at 6:11 PM on November 28, 2012

You should check out the Scrap Exchange in Durham. Holy mother of industrial and manufacturing and equipment and leftover heaven. They often have artists create stuff as examples, and workshops to help you make random stuff out of random stuff. They host birthday parties for kids - craft insanity, in the best way possible.
posted by barnone at 6:48 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Our local coffee roaster gives away tons and tons of burlap bags. We lay them out in our community garden as a ground cover to fight back the weeds.
posted by divka at 7:18 PM on November 28, 2012

heres an interesting article on recycling uses for old car tyres
posted by Under the Sea at 7:26 PM on November 28, 2012

I work at a grocery store. Things we get rid of, in various ways:
boxes (flattened, baled, recycled)
fruits/veggies (usually picked up for compost, but a lot are thrown out)
pulp from juicer (trash)
wheatgrass flats minus the wheatgrass, so with the dirt/roots (trash)
dented cans, boxes, out-of-date stuff (usually given away)
out-of-date dairy stuff (trash)
bubble wrap and styrofoam (given away for reuse)
dead light bulbs, fluorescent and regular (recycled)
2- and 5-gallon buckets (reused or given away)
pallets (picked up by truck drivers for reuse)
old racking/displays (recycled or trashed)
waxed cardboard boxes from produce (trash unfortunately)

I'm sure there's a lot more, but I can't think of it right now.
posted by Slinga at 7:32 PM on November 28, 2012

Well, yesterday I called about 30 different personal organizers/professional declutterers to ask if any of their clients had vintage clothes that needed a new home. Turns out they'd mostly been giving that stuff to Goodwill. This morning I went to a hoarder's house and came home with a dozen coats, a dozen dresses and 15 hats for my vintage shop.
posted by nonasuch at 7:40 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was younger we raised pigs that were fed returned/expired milk from the local dairy.

Lovely memories of emptying hundreds of tiny milk cartons into a giant trough full of rancid milk.

The pigs were as happy as, well, pigs in shit about it.
posted by davey_darling at 8:16 PM on November 28, 2012

When I was in architecture school, we got as many large, pristine sheets of corrugated card as we could stuff into a car from a packaging/box factory. They were offcuts too small for them to cut boxes, but perfectly suited to building up bases for contour models.
posted by carbide at 9:34 PM on November 28, 2012

Disused rubber gloves, especially the heavy black ones, can be cut with scissors into wide, long lasting rubber bands to wrap around everything from sugar and coffee bags to power cords for drills, sanders, kettles, etc.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:35 PM on November 28, 2012

Tropical fish are shipped to pet stores in super thick polystyrene (styrofoam) boxes which are rarely reused for shipping due to parcel company rules about requiring live animals to be shipped in new packaging. They make awesome ice chests if you don't mind getting your beer out of a box covered in "Live Fish" labels. They also make excellent temporary aquariums to have on hand for aquarist emergencies (tank breakdowns or moves, baby fish nursery, sick fish isolation). Your LFS will usually have a mountain of these boxes they are trying to get rid of.
posted by jamaro at 10:49 PM on November 28, 2012

Beer bottles! I went hunting for some bottles to put my newly brewed beer in and the local fancy pub had plenty.
posted by rhythm and booze at 1:22 AM on November 29, 2012

Brewery waste products are used as animal feed.

UK sandwich chain Pret A Manger actively donates its unsold food to homeless charities.

It's common in Japan for beer crates to be used as outdoor tables.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:46 AM on November 29, 2012

Everyone I know with pigs gets bags of stale bread and cakes from bakeries at closing time for free and uses them for animal feed.

Everyone I know with chickens will give you as much manure as you want for your garden if you show up with a bucket and a spade.
posted by lollusc at 2:52 AM on November 29, 2012

Check the trash behind book stores for stripped books. When I worked at a book store, we used to throw out thousands of coverless paperbacks every year. You can't legally sell those books, but I'm sure you can think of other things to do with them.
posted by pracowity at 3:33 AM on November 29, 2012

Coffee roasters often have buckets upon buckets of chaff; little peanut skin like bits that pop off during roasting. These make an excellent compost component as well as superb chicken bedding.

Chickens love that goddamn stuff.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:33 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know what you'd do with them, but many Christmas tree sales lots leave the unsold trees behind.
posted by yohko at 12:56 PM on November 29, 2012

Yeast extract, a waste product from the brewing process for beer, is made into Marmite, a food spread for sandwiches.
posted by Jabberwocky at 4:00 PM on November 29, 2012

We have acquaintances who converted a car (I think it was a diesel VW in its first life) to run on waste Vegetable oil. They then drove across country, stopping to fill up by at places that seemed likely to do a lot of deep frying, just asking for the used oil to be set aside for them and picking it up at the end of the night. They paid nothing, and the restaurants benefited because they would otherwise have to pay for the oil disposal.
posted by anastasiav at 5:26 PM on November 29, 2012

Zoo poo (and other sources of manure) gets turned into Poo Pets to fertilize one's garden.
posted by Lexica at 7:59 PM on November 29, 2012

Response by poster: "The majority of the wool we use in our home insulation is waste wool from NZ carpet and textile manufacturers. "

Also many hotels throw out partially-used soaps and shampoos.
posted by aniola at 2:43 AM on January 28, 2013

Response by poster: I live near a copy shop now that sells extra super duper long scratch pads. They are some sort of by- product.
posted by aniola at 6:32 PM on March 25, 2013

Response by poster: I see a lot of hazelnut shells being used in landscaping here in Portland, Oregon.
posted by aniola at 10:53 AM on August 23, 2013

Many dog racing tracks also have greyhound adoption offices.
posted by Jane Austen at 1:22 PM on September 29, 2013

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