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Repurpose America gives convention materials new life

Everything has a purpose. Sometimes, items have more than one.

It’s up to Zachary Delbex and his team to figure out what those other uses might be. It’s not recycling, it’s finding a new purpose and making it happen.

Delbex is the founder and CEO of Repurpose America, 4606 Andrews St., Suite 1, in North Las Vegas .

Much of the material for which it finds new uses is left behind by conventions … a lot of conventions. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority hosted 18,004 such trade shows in 2010.

Finding new ways to use the discards, Delbex said, means forgetting what it was and looking at what it can be.

“You have to think out of the box,” he said.

Magnetic material has become learning tools for young children. Wood laminate flooring became part of a traveling church play. Hollow Roman-style pillars are now planters in a meditation garden.

Since vinyl signage is a major component to any convention, Repurpose America has a plethora of it. About 4,000 feet have been used to provide a shade canopy at a preschool playground. The colorful vinyl was pieced together but wasn’t bleached of its original verbiage. The result: It promotes an edgy, yes-I’ve-been-recycled kind of message.

Most recently, the company helped build and outfit a design school lab for the East Career and Technical Academy, 6705 Vegas Valley Drive. The materials came from a convention exhibit booth. Discards included everything from cabinet drawers to wood paneling.

“We even had a kitchen sink,” Delbex said.

The result is what has been dubbed the greenest “Little House in the Valley.” Instructors Fausto Vega and Tim Litz run the construction program.

Vega estimated that Repurpose America supplied as much as $10,000 in materials and allowed the students to have real-world experience — everything from laying foundation to framing to roofing to plumbing.

“It teaches them to be more responsible about the Earth,” Vega said. “Putting something to re-use, instead of wasting it, is a valuable lesson.”

The Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce maintains that only 15 percent of the materials that can be recycled are recycled, so to find a way to repurpose items is commendable, said Katherine Duncan, community development director.

“Green business is the fastest-growing sector in America,” she said. “It’s where the new jobs will be taking place.”

True to its original intent, Repurpose America hires wounded veterans and those with disabilities.

Since he joined the Teamsters Union at 19, Delbex has worked on hundreds of the conventions that come to Las Vegas. His job: Set up new booths and dismantle old ones. The latter often saw him driving a forklift to haul away tons of perfectly good material.

Being raised in Hawaii taught him a true appreciation for the Earth and nature. The idea for finding new uses for the material led to establishing the company.

“I saw a need (for a) clearing house of materials,” he said.

At first, it was named Greener Vegas. Redefining the company’s mission led to changing the name to one that was less ambiguous.

Much of the material with which Repurpose America deals is Foamcore — lightweight, poster board-type material. It lends itself to so many applications, new uses are nearly inexhaustible.

Sometimes Repurpose America doesn’t need to find a new purpose for items, it simply needs to find the item a new home. A three-day convention purchased 300 small fans outfitted with clips. They were used in a display. With no further use for them, the order came down: Throw them out.

Repurpose America arranged to take them instead. The fans now are used in school portables — which are notoriously hot in summer — and the clips mean they hang from the white boards, out of the way.

By showing that Las Vegas has a plan for re using materials, Delbex said, more companies will be inclined to book their conventions here.

“If we can help bring in one more show, then that has multiple effects, generating millions in terms of impact on the city,” he said.

For more information about Repurpose America, visit repurposeamerica.org.

Contact Summerlin and Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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