Need Your “Weird Recycling” Stories, Please

We’re working on a Freakonomics Radio episode that will probably be called “Weird Recycling” (or, possibly, “What Do Chicken Paws and Tongue Depressors Have in Common?”). It’s about people who find or create value from things that are typically thought to be worthless (or worse!).

I’d love to gather a few more examples and I can think of no population in the world better suited for this task than the Freakonomics readership.

What say you?

Thanks in advance.

Audio Transcript


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  1. frankenduf says:

    don’t forget the origin of ‘buffalo’ wings

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  2. Randy Clemens says:

    David Crane from takes “spent grain” leftover from the beer brewing process and makes it into dog treats. He also makes a line called Stone Bones that uses spent grain from Stone Brewing Co. (Disclosure: I work for Stone.)

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  3. Dusan Vilicic says:

    I’d vote for Justin Gignac’s NYC Garbage: www[dot]nycgarbage[dot]com

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  4. Daniel says:

    I’ve built musical instruments out of wooden tennis racquets, an old frying pan, Altoids tins, and even a vintage bedpan.

    Here is an example:

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  5. Robin Marlowe says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 20
  6. Beth Terry says:

    Irrigation trick: I took 2 dozen water bottles, poked holes in the lids and cut off the bottoms. Then buried them lid-down in my garden. I can fill up the water bottles easily and I have instant “drip watering” much deeper than I would have.

    Travel Tip: I occasionally use 5hr energy. I collected all the bottles and now those are my instant travel bottles for all my sundry items I need to carry on.

    Something for the kiddies: I wash out all the small plastic and glass containers I use. When I get a box full, I drop them off at an elementary school, along with all my old magazines. Teachers are always looking for pictures for their kids to use in collages, and they need small containers for things like paint and other craft projects.

    Small metal kits: I’m a huge Altoids fan. I make cool things out of the tins when I’m done. You can paint on the metal or glue cloth or other designs. It’s a sturdy little container for many things: I have my tiny iPod shuffle in an “Ipoid” Case made from one. Other uses: business card case; sewing supplies for travel, soap holder for travel, holds waterproof matches for camping, I use a Square for credit card transactions and I keep my Square and supplies in an old altoids case. I also keep my eyeglass tools in one. There are many websites with ideas for this handy little metal box,

    Recycle Washing Machine: My neighbors took their old washing machine and used the metal basket as a portable firepit. They welded the bottom to a metal frame with wheels; painted it with fireproof black paint; and put a tray underneath to catch the ashes. It’s a perfect heater for a large group of people sitting around it. The holes in the basket provide for even distribution of heat, and are small enough to block ashes from flying out.

    Repurpose lawnmower: Another neighbor took an old lawnmower engine and attached it to the back of a skateboard. He attached an old curtain rod to the front and welded a cross bar for steering. He rides it all over the neighborhood.

    Construction: I saw a home in Northern Arizona where an entire wall was made of glass bottles buried in mortar. As they built the wall, they stacked bottles in alternating directions and filled in between them with mortar. The glass bottles catch the light and create interesting shapes and colors.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1