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creative:impact - Turning SCRAP Heaps Into Craft Keeps

Juniper Beaty

Using creativity to keep usable waste from the landfill is the mission of SCRAP Creative Reuse and the subject of "creative:impact," when Claire Tyra, the director of SCRAP, joins Deb Polich of The Arts Alliance and WEMU's David Fair.  Listen here. 

Deb Polich
Deb Polich, President and CEO of The Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.


Creative Reuse (also known as upcycling or repurposing), is when the addition of creativity to an already manufactured item brings a new function.  A CD jewel case can become a bird feeder, wine corks turned into a cork board, a t-shirt transformed into a rug. (as defined by The Reuse Alliance)

Creative Reuses Centers, like SCRAP, collect discarded materials (see our list) from the public that can be reused and given new life.  Many centers resell these items to the public for a bargain or donate them to teachers, organizations or other groups for further reuse.


In 1983, Karen Ensminger was looking for something to do when her son started kindergarten.  She had known about the recycling program at the Children’s Museum in Boston, which became her model for Ann Arbor’s Scrap Box.

Karen was introduced to Bess Manchester Sternberg who was on the staff of the Child Care Network.  They agreed to sponsor The Scrap Box as one of their programs offered to early childhood workers.  Soon, Bess introduced Karen to Ken Moore, and he became co-director.  Neither really knew what they were getting into.  At first, The Scrap Box was open only on Thursday afternoons for two hours.  It was a start—humble though it was.

Two years later, The Scrap Box formed its own nonprofit organization and moved into a few empty classrooms in the Westside Methodist Church on 7th Street.  From there, The Scrap Box moved four more times, to finally settle into their current location.  After about 10 years, Ken and his wife moved to New Mexico to pursue other dreams, and Karen began to hire others to help develop the program into what it has become today.


SCRAP Creative Reuse was founded in Portland OR in 1998 by a group of teachers who wanted to find a home for their leftover classroom materials.  They brought these materials to A Teacher’s Space, a resource center for Portland Public School teachers, and left them on a table for others to use.  In 1999, an innovative teacher named Joan Grimm got together with a handful of her peers and received a grant from the Department of Environmental Quality to open a small creative reuse center for the community.

SCRAP became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1999.  SCRAP Creative Reuse is a network of grassroots creative reuse centers around the country.  From that first creative reuse center in Portland, we developed a model that could be shared in other communities in other places.


It’s tough to contain a great idea.  Communities all over the U.S. are recognizing the value of having access to an organized creative reuse center.  SCRAP Creative Reuse Network has a sustainable business model of creative reuse service delivery that lends itself to replication by all communities.  Dedicated and passionate creative reusers in other parts of the country have taken up the mantle and are establishing SCRAPs in their communities.  Pay attention to the creative reuse love coming out of Portland OR, Arcata CA, Denton TX, Baltimore MD, Richmond VA, and Ann Arbor, MI.


If you are interested in learning how to start a creative reuse center of your own, please check out the Getting Started page on our SCRAP Creative Reuse Network website. 



SCRAP Creative ReUse - Ann Arbor

Materials Being Accepted By SCRAP

Contact Info to Make SCRAP Donations (By Appointment Only)

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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