Reverse Garbage is supplied with unwanted junk from businesses and the public which they transform into usable things – check them out and get involved with all things green…

This huge warehouse really is an Aladdin’s cave of treasures waiting to be found. From sheets of perspex, to fish netting, carpet tiles, bottle tops and chopsticks; everything brought here was once somebody else’s junk. The job of staff at this environmentally aware business is to reverse garbage and give it a second chance. Donated materials are sold to the public for use in art and craft projects, home and garden improvements and anything else ingenious customers come up with. “Unwanted items aren’t clogging up landfill sites and people feel like they’re doing something positive for the environment,” explains Louise Gillard, one of Reverse Garbage’s directors. A staggering four Olympic swimming pools of junk have been rescued by them since opening in 1999. “We inspect items first and if they’re suitable we collect them free of charge,” explains Louise. Originally located on West End’s Montague Road, a lack of space and an expiring lease encouraged them to find a new home in 2011. They are now located in an old pie factory just off Ipswich Road in Woolloongabba. “We love the area and we’re still only a hop, skip and a jump from West End,” says Louise.

The company still comes across a lot of people from West End who are surprised to find them since the move. “We were mid move during the 2011 floods so lots of people think we closed down altogether, which isn’t the case at all!” Louise got involved with Reverse Garbage in 2004 when she started as a volunteer. “I used to be a dancer and I knew Reverse Garbage really well as I used their resources for props,” she explains. In 2005, Louise was promoted to director and she’s now responsible for the shop floor. Being a not-for-profit worker cooperative means there are six directors who share the responsibility of running the business, as opposed to having one owner. “It does mean you need self-motivated people who are willing to cooperate,” says Louise.

Reverse Garbage has all sorts of exciting projects going on behind the scenes. “We run workshops both here, in schools and at community events,” says Louise. Workshop themes include robots, junk jewellery, kites and musical instruments. Keen to make their goods accessible to all, Reverse Garbage introduced mail order in 2007. “We send out barrels full of materials all over Australia which is a great service for remote areas,” says Louise. Themed barrels include crazy collage, trains, planes and automobiles and wearable art. If that’s not enough they also have Reverse Emporium — a gallery space and gift shop which stocks art, jewellery and homewares made by local artists from 75 per cent salvaged  materials.

With all these weird and wonderful items coming through the door each day, Louise recounts the wackiest, “we once had hundreds of plaster rubber glove moulds and about a year later one of my neighbours had a horror themed party where she had used the moulds as props — you could see them coming out of the ground all around the garden!”


Words by Roisin Johnson  |  Images by Gillian van Niekerk