The Scrap Exchange: The Largest Reuse Center in the Country

By Wendy Smith , The Scrap Exchange / Published 05.27.20
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Art and reuse are at the core of what we do. From the very beginning in 1991, The Scrap Exchange has been a local destination for all types of artists, providing affordable and unique materials in an  environment catering to the creative spirit. The Scrap Exchange began by collecting clean industrial  discards, materials from mills, factories, and businesses, which were otherwise destined for the  landfill. Reusing is preferable to recycling because it saves the energy that comes with having to  separate and recreate raw materials and re­manufacture products. Reuse significantly reduces  waste and pollution because it reduces the need for raw materials, saving both forests and water  supplies. Finally, reuse extends the life cycle of a product and honors the initial energy used in its  creation. These discards can be repurposed by clever individuals into myriad projects both big and  small. Today, the Scrap Exchange takes donations from individuals as well as business and industry.  Our efforts toward reuse allowed us to divert over 850 tons of waste away from landfills. With these donations we are able stock our shelves with traditional art supplies, hardware, craft materials, antiques, ephemera, building supplies, clothing, household items and so much more while still  keeping prices as low as possible.

Presently, the Scrap Exchange is the largest reuse center in the country and home to two retail stores: The Reuse Arts Shop and the Scrap Thrift Shop. In addition, our building houses the Cameron Art Gallery and Marketplace, both of which provide places where our patrons can enjoy and purchase the artful expressions and creations of local and regional artists. The Scrap Exchange also provides venues for experimenting and learning new ways to explore creative reuse including  the Make­N­Take Room and the Maker’s Design Center.

PICTURED The Durham Chamber hosted a fun vision board workshop for members at The Scrap Exchange in January 2020.

Through our Outreach Program, the Scrap Exchange extends our mission into the community with educational and creative opportunities focused on reuse as well as environmental impact and awareness. These programs provide children and adults with opportunities to escape poverty, gain a voice in their community and experience a better quality of life. We also partner with local teachers and educators by providing educational opportunities and discounts for supplies.

The Scrap Exchange creates a win­-win-­win situation for everyone involved — our donors are eligible for a tax deduction for the value of the items they donate; community members have access to hard­-to-find, affordable materials; and usable materials are kept from entering the waste stream.

Historically, through these social enterprises and outreach programs, The Scrap Exchange has been able to fund 95% of our mission. However with the shutdown due to COVID-19, we are seeking greater community support to make up for lost revenue during this pandemic as well as create programs which can run while still observing the parameters of social distancing.

The Scrap Exchange is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to promote creativity, environmental awareness and community through reuse.

For more information about our organization, please visit www.scrapexchange.org. If you are  interested in learning more about how you or your organization can support our mission, please contact Wendy Smith at development@scrapexchange.org or reach her at (919) 414­-6902.