New life for used plywood

ReUSE Minnesota focuses on plain boards that will get reused in building projects and more


ReUSE Minnesota Board President Jenny Kedward said, “We are leading the effort to collect, store, and distribute plywood used in the Uprising for reuse. We respect all artwork and murals. We are working with several organizations to preserve those pieces, and to get unmarked boards back out into the community where they can be used again.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)[/caption]

In the wake of the Uprising, Minneapolis was flooded with a reusable commodity that residents weren’t used to seeing everywhere: plywood. Within four days of George Floyd’s murder, plywood covered hundreds of businesses and organizations along Lake Street from end to end, and just about everywhere else. If one business owner chose to cover windows and doors, it seemed like everybody on the block followed suit.

ReUSE Minnesota Board President Jenny Kedward is a recycling educator by trade, a professional trash talker who has been taking the message of recycling to schools, businesses, and neighborhood groups for 14 years. She said, “ReUSE Minnesota stands with our communities advocating for systems change and pursuing justice for George Floyd.”

ReUSE Minnesota is a member-based network that promotes Minnesota’s reuse, rental, and repair sector. As the only organization of its kind in the state, ReUSE Minnesota highlights the benefits of reuse both for people and the environment.

Kedward reflected, “The main thing on everybody’s mind is, ‘What can I do now?’ As a reuse organization, we are committed to keeping as much of the used plywood out of the waste stream as we can. We don’t want this stuff going into incinerators. Toward that goal, our board started a new initiative called Twin Cities Plywood Rescue.”

So far, ReUSE Minnesota has collected 642 pieces of plywood and strand board. Their volunteers have made 46 pick-ups from local businesses and organizations at no charge.

Kedward wants to keep spreading the word that Twin Cities Plywood Rescue is alive and well. She said, ”We’re in the phase now of getting those materials back out into the community to be used in new ways.”

St. Paul’s Mano a Mano (which means Hand to Hand in Spanish) received 40 boards to use in shipping recycled medical materials to underserved people in the mountains of Bolivia. Pillsbury United Communities used 30 boards to protect the floor of their newly expanded food shelf in South Minneapolis.

Non-profits or individuals may request boards for free, if it’s a hardship to pay. If possible, ReUSE Minnesota requests $3 for a full sheet of strand board and $4 for a full sheet of plywood. A full sheet measures 4’ X 8’.  The fee offsets disposal costs for reclaimed boards that aren’t usable.

A full sheet of strand board normally costs about $15; a full sheet of plywood costs about $25.

Board with murals treated


Kedward said, “When people hear about Plywood Rescue, their first concern is for the murals. We’ve separated out the boards we’ve collected that have graffiti on them. We’re offering those boards to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) organizations and neighborhood museums first. Then we will reach out to larger institutions like the Minnesota History Center. We understand the emotions associated with artwork and controversies in working with larger institutions.”

ReUSE Minnesota is interested in plain boards for community redistribution. To donate strand board or plywood, visit their website at (minimum size 2’ X 4’).

The vision of their organization is to build a strong Minnesota reuse economy that leads the nation in well-paying reuse jobs and sales, and is driven by citizens and institutions who support a circular economy aimed at reducing waste.

“ReUSE Minnesota is a network of people led by a volunteer board of directors. We facilitate connections in the reuse, rental, and repair sector. Our members are from both for-profit and non-profit organizations of any size that are part of this sector. We welcome government partners whose works focuses on waste reduction and reuse – and we welcome individuals who are passionate about reuse.”

~ Board President Jenny Kedward


Another local initiative focuses on plywood with artwork.

According to Plywood for Good organizers: The plywood covering Minneapolis and St. Paul businesses following the killing of George Floyd is a grassroots art project. It captures the cries emanating from the people of our cities and nation to combat police brutality and systemic racism. We want to connect with the artists and businesses owners and learn their stories. Our goal is to help preserve and protect the art of this movement, to make sure art doesn’t get tossed out when taken down.”

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