Riches from rags

Reverse Garbage Queensland is helping to turn Brisbane’s industrial trash into treasure.

Not-for-profit cooperative Reverse Garbage Queensland (RGQ) is passionate about reducing the impact of local businesses on the environment.

RGQ spokesperson Mei Tuicolo said the organisation had been recycling Brisbane’s discarded industrial material for more than 20 years.

“We’ve always been about environmental, social and financial sustainability,” Ms Tuicolo said. 

“Our core work is collecting clean industrial discards which we make available to Brisbanites, and people who visit us from the Gold and Sunshine coasts, at low cost for use in eco-art or DIY projects around the house.”

More than 300 local businesses regularly supply industrial off-cuts, that would otherwise go to landfill, to the worker-run cooperative.

“We collect the industrial discards from businesses for free and show them there is cost benefit to choosing us over landfill,” Ms Tuicolo said.

“We have donors who have been with us for 20 years and we’re still signing up donors via word-of-mouth.”

Ms Tuicolo said RGQ was not an op shop, rather a place where you could buy raw material to complete a project.

“There’s no such thing as single use, there’s always a second use for something.” she said. 

“If you’re looking for cheap options before starting a DIY or art project, think of us before you go to Bunnings.” 

Regularly donated materials include timber, chairs, pallets, plastic tubs, fabric and shipping boxes, while some of the more unusual donations have involved acrylic teeth, theatre backdrops and rubber ducks.

Many of the donations are used in RGQ’s eco-art workshops, ‘repair cafe’ classes and school education programs.

“We want zero waste to become normal for children,” Ms Tuicolo said.

“For the older generation, it’s a very mechanical process that involves putting signs on bins and knowing what’s reusable and what’s recyclable, but this is the generation we can set it up as normal.

“It’s something that can be embedded into day-to-day habits and learning for children.”

While zero waste can be daunting, Ms Tuicolo recommended people start small.

“Don’t throw everything out Marie Kondo-style,” Ms Tuicolo said.

“Take stock of what you have, the condition it’s in and try to creatively reuse the items you already have.”

Queenslanders outside of the south-east can purchase materials from RGQ via their mail-order catalogue or eBay.