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"Industrial Matchmaker" Repurposes Discarded Byproducts

A Denver-based company finds alternate uses for unusual materials destined for the landfill.

By Erin McHugh
May 01, 2013
Courtesy of repurposedMATERIALS
Advertising billboard vinyls

If you thought you knew a little bit about repurposing things that might otherwise be seen as waste, you may find you still have a lot to learn – unless you’ve already been reusing things like pole vault crash pads, of course. That’s right, and weren’t you wondering what happened to all that vinyl from the gigantic political billboard near your highway exit after the election was over?

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Lots of these ungainly materials are automatically carted off to local landfills, but a Denver-based business repurposedMATERIALS is finding a second life for them. They define the castoffs they purchase and resell as “byproducts and waste that have value ‘as is’ to a second, unrelated industry,” and they are the only company in the United States whose entire product line is “preowned.” Part of what makes this company different is that what they sell is not recycled, which can require energy to melt, grind, or chip the original item, but utilizes each product in its original form. They don’t need to make things into something else: repurposedMATERIALS has found plenty of customers who want what they have to offer just the way it is.

The company’s product line is full of the unexpected; they call themselves an industrial matchmaker, with a solicitation that usually starts with, “Got byproducts?” Their initial use clients are as various as a turkey farmer to a tugboat operator, a water-well driller to a thoroughbred horse stable owner. And what they salvage is even more unusual: used swimming pool covers; wood from snow fences and railroad ties; old bowling alleys to turn into beautiful kitchen counters; synthetic turf from sports fields that become a new yard; 55-gallon drums re-act as storage bins; climbing ropes that can work as hoists and boat lines; and the list goes on. Founder and owner Damon Carson says that weird second lives are their stock in trade. “Street sweeper brushes as cattle backscratchers is pretty odd,” he admits, citing what he considers their craziest reuse. But business is booming, and Carson says it continues to grow. And the huge political billboards? That’s how it all began, notes Carson. A subcontractor mentioned to me, “’If you ever get a chance to buy an old billboard vinyl, they make great drop cloths for painting.’ That was the comment that led me to start the company.”

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