When I was growing up, digging through my Grammy’s kitchen was a guessing game. Did this butter tub actually contain butter, or was it last night’s leftovers? A recipe calls for a cup of white sugar? Look in the ice cream tub in the pantry. And, of course, those butter cookie tins never contained sweets, but rather her sewing kit or a deck of playing cards.
My Grammy was born in the 1930s and came from a traditionally large family. She would always say, “We were poor, but we didn’t know it.” Perhaps she meant this because she never went without her basic needs or because her home was filled with love and happy times. Judging by my memories of her thrifty habits, I’d wager that her family reused and repurposed as much as they could to ensure their household provided for everyone who lived there.
These habits are very common across generations that survived lean times, such as the Great Depression. Children were commonly seen wearing old flour sacks because the cotton fabric that held grain was perfect for creating dresses and clothes. Today, I have seen plastic feed sacks repurposed into durable tote bags for carrying various objects.
Left: A warehouse worker in 1939 at the Sunbonnet Sue Flour Mill in Kansas; photograph by Margaret Bourke-White and published by Life Magazine
Unfortunately, because of the increased amount of production, repurposing objects seems like more than a hassle when you could just buy a new product online and have it delivered to your doorstep in two days. This leads to an excess of stuff everywhere, creating an overwhelming sea of things to sort through and store and manage. And if an object breaks, it makes sense just to throw it away, and something new will take its place.
But what if slightly damaged things could get a new life? Maybe all an outdated item need is an upgrade to make it practical for today’s life. If you collect enough scrap material, a new creation could be born without needing to purchase something new.
South of Crown Center in Kansas City, MO, there is a shop called ScrapsKC that wants to make it easier for leftover items to find their way into the hands of innovative creators and out of the landfill.
Founded in 2016, Brenda Mott created ScrapsKC with the mission to “offer a way for everyone to participate in caring for the Kansas City community through the reuse, repurposing, and renewal of people and things” (ScrapsKC.org). Mott uses her store not only to collect and sell discarded materials for a new life but also to serve the homeless population of Kansas City. There are jobs available daily for folks seeking work opportunities, but the business also offers assistance in the form of food and survival items.
Anyone is welcome to visit the shop. Educators, students, and hobbyists will find a bounty of materials for different types of crafts, activities, and various projects. The store will also accept donations in the form of leftover materials (check the list here before donating!) or monetary donations to support the store and community.
Since their launch almost five years ago, ScrapsKC has diverted an estimated 12 tons of waste from landfills! (https://scrapskc.org/mission/)
Repurposing materials can be challenging because you can run into the issue of saving without ever finding a new life for the object, which can lead to an excess of stuff. Try to only save objects with a specific purpose in mind and a reasonable time frame in which to complete the project. Holding onto something to “maybe someday” do something with it leads to hoarding and has a greater chance of ending up in landfill despite your best efforts to reduce waste.
You can also reduce leftovers by limiting what comes into your home when purchasing new items and only buying what you need.
Waste is unavoidable in our current society, but with businesses like ScrapsKC and household efforts to live eco-consciously, we can reduce our waste and find new life in old items.
For more information about ScrapsKC, check out their website here.