Silk Purse from Sow's Ear


Eco design flies in the face of the expression "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," which suggests if something isn't very good to begin with, it cannot be made valuable.

Carlos Salgado and Bart Bettencourt of SCRAPILE, a Brooklyn, New York furniture company, refute the idiom every time they make a dining table, bookshelf, or bench with salvaged wood. Since 2003, the designing duo has collected scraps shed off from New York's woodworking industry and combined and reused the discarded pieces to make new furniture.

Salgado and Bettencourt say they began their business after noticing all the wood-based material being thrown out in New York City. Disturbed by the simultaneous waste of usable wood and clear-cutting of virgin forests, they planned the implementation of a reuse system, started a collection route, and created designs that integrate different types, colors, and grades of wood into inherently one-of-a-kind pieces.

The process creates a win-win situation for SCRAPILE and the larger manufacturers who face the expenses of waste disposal. Once collected materials are back at the company warehouse, the wood is milled to a specific size, cataloged, and laminated into a block with different types of wood. 

Bring materials back to their warehouse Get milled to specific size Catalog the wood Laminate the different types of woods into a block Cut into slabs that fit furniture profiles

Bettencourt estimates that 90 percent of SCRAPILE's customers buy for aesthetic; the fact that the furniture is reused is just "value added." Although Bettencourt says people have suggested SCRAPILE adopt a more elegant name, he explains that one of the business's premises is to get people to start looking at waste in a different way, "so the name really is what we’re all about."

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