Curb Alert: A Crowdsourced Map App to Reclaim 'Trash'

I grew up in Scotland, graduated and worked first for a real estate company and then for a bank. I found this deeply unfulfilling and moved to...

I grew up in Scotland, graduated and worked first for a real estate company and then for a bank. I found this deeply unfulfilling and moved to my place of birth, San Francisco, in the summer of 2010, where I landed a job for a reclaimed lumber company. It was there that I learned about the aesthetic and value of reclaimed materials. We’d take apart old barns, water containers, and public buildings and then remill the materials into products such as flooring and paneling.

Since my time in San Francisco I’ve never looked at trash the same way. I cannot simply walk past a dumpster or a building site without nosing around. In Toronto, where I live now, my friends share my enthusiasm and we’ve built this crowdsourced map and app called Trashswag. Before we built the site, we’d notice objects on the street that we could salvage, then text each other pictures, with information about where the stuff was. There was never a shortage of stuff.

The city streets are still laden with old growth lumber from home renovations, solid wood furniture such as desks, drawers and bookshelves, architectural salvage items such as doors and windows and more unusual items like props and old metal storefront signage (we’ve also found a giant mustache, checkers tables, old suitcases and whisky casks, to name a few).

Our site has become an artist’s resource for finding unique, aged old materials and furniture that has been left out on the curb. Trashswag equips anyone with a smartphone and an eye for useful “junk” with the ability to make a contribution to the map via the apps or other reporting methods. The map facilitates salvage activities and becomes the collective eyes of the people involved. Since it was created at the start of the year, Trashswag has grown, and now we want to take it to other cities.

It’s fascinating what people do with the materials they find on Trashwag. I’ve seen people make wardrobes out of old doors or shelves out of abandoned wood. They’ve even fixed broken chairs, or they’ve built desks out of palettes. It’s not only the creativity that’s inspiring, it’s the recycling and the repurposing of perfectly good materials that’s in a way, helping our cities stop wasting.

If you want to get involved, you can help us out in a number of ways. We want more people to know about this project. Link to us on Facebook or Twitter and you’ll see new items that have been added to the map in your newsfeed. If you see something that you like, then let it be known. Much of the interest in Trashswag thus far has simply come from folks sharing on social media platforms. If you’d like to take the extra step and become a contributor to Trashswag, then create an account and send us a message. It’s easy enough for us to add a city subdomain, although we are primarily in Canada right now. We just need you to start adding stuff. If you’re already in Toronto you can contribute by sending in things you’ve come across via the app, email, website form or by Twitter using #trashswag in any geotagged tweet.

Become a part of the reclamation movement. Don’t let abandoned furniture and materials go to the dump. Click here to say you’ll DO it.

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