Reverse Garbage, the self-described “experts in reuse,” was established in 1974 by a group of teachers with a strong commitment to the environment. The collective was meant to redirect industrial discards from landfill for use in classrooms.

A veritable treasure trove of everything you could possibly want (and many things you didn’t know you needed), the shelves are piled with used books and vintage furniture and odd, but strangely useful knick-knacks. No matter what you’re searching for, you’re likely to find it here. [fold]

Mark Bond, marketing manager for the Addison Road warehouse, believes there is some kind of cosmic karma within the space. He recalls a woman who came in looking for oars for a themed party and told her “I’m sorry we don’t have any at the moment, maybe come back in a few weeks.” Later that day some oars came in off the loading dock.

“It’s a lucky charm or something,” he laughs.

Forty years on, Reverse Garbage is now an internationally recognized, award-winning environmental cooperative committed to supporting sustainability within the Sydney community.

Thanks to a government grant, the centre has been a fixture in the Addison Road Centre since 1977. “We take nearly everything,” says Bond. “The only items we won’t take are things that are unsafe, or used mattresses or clothes, mainly because we can’t guarantee the hygiene of those items.”

The entrance to the warehouse is jam-packed with a creepy collection of naked mannequins - some legless, some just torsos. A giant stack of paint cans sits next to rows upon rows of fabric scraps and even a selection of stubby holders (just 50 cents apiece).

Reverse Garbage goes through about 40,000 cubic metres of stock per year. That’s equivalent to one hundred football fields of “junk”. The Reverse Garbage truck is out five days a week picking up one man’s trash and dropping off another man’s treasure. The warehouse has a high turnover, most of the stock only sticks around for one to two weeks, and any items that remain for longer are recycled into new pieces.

Reverse Garbage Creative is an initiative that lives up to the ethos of the collective. Made up of a diverse team of artists and designers, they work exclusively with pieces from the warehouse and are frequently commissioned to create reuse items, like art installations and signage. There are even ottomans that have been created from the City of Sydney banners that are donated to the warehouse each year. Bond proudly displays a huge Styrofoam clock that has been created especially for a themed party at Jurassic Lounge that evening.

Over the years both the customer and the donation base have shifted from mainly corporate contributors to individuals. Often obscured by the weird and wonderful (like a giant glittered stiletto left behind from a Mardi Gras float) are the huge number of products Reverse Garbage makes available to DIY homemakers. Not only are there litres upon litres of house paint, but also tiles, electrical goods, vintage furniture and even a collection of kitchen sinks.

The strangest item to have entered this Aladdin’s cave of methodical madness? “A coffin,” says Bond. “We didn’t know if it was used or not.”

Reverse Garbage
8/142 Addison Road, Marrickville
(02) 9569 3132

Mon – Sat 9am – 5pm
Sun 10am -4pm