MedShare: Creative reuse, in more ways than one

This is the story of extreme reuse, in the best possible way. And the story of art created for a powerful good cause. First, what do you see in this photo?

Creative Reuse: medical tubing

Creative Reuse -- medical tubing

If you live in Atlanta like I do, you may see Spaghetti Junction, where I-85 and I-285 cross. We’re looking for artistic potential here, though, not traffic nightmares.

Castoff medical supplies like the above tubing are available now for artists to use to create special works of art that will be auctioned on April 25 at an Atlanta event honoring World Malaria Day. Artists are asked to create art reflecting the themes of diversity, unity and common action. Money raised at this event will help send 2 container shipments of medical supplies to Sierra Leone.

How can you get your hands on these medical supplies, bits of art-in-the-making? Go to MedShare, at 3240 Clifton Springs Road  Decatur, GA 30034. They have barrels and bins of potential art materials for you. Call (770) 323-5858 for their hours.  If you are interested in producing a piece of artwork for the auction, contact Clint Fluker at 678-399-1250.

Here is another look at some potential raw materials:

Creative Reuse: medical packing materials

Creative Reuse -- little foam blocks

Here is a really big piece of MedShare art as it was in progress:

Making art from medical supplies

To get a sense of the size and scope, you need to know that the orange things in this photo are pill bottles.

And the finished work:

A finished piece of artwork

Fact: Every 45 seconds, a child dies of malaria.

To see more of these photos, visit the MedShare blog.

So now you know about the art supplies (creative reuse) and the art auction on April 25. Now it’s time to talk about MedShare. This is the extreme reuse part of the story. MedShare collects usable medical supplies from 32 hospitals in Atlanta and sends them to underserved communities in developing countries. They have a second location on the West Coast and others planned for New York and South Florida.

The MedShare mission is to bridge the gap between surplus and need to improve healthcare and the environment in the United States and abroad. Yes, the environment. In its 13 years, MedShare has saved more that 2 million cubic feet of medical supplies and equipment from going into the landfill.

Medshare warehouse

Boxes of medical supplies to be shipped overseas.

MedShare has two main sources of medical supplies. First, think of the hospital operating room. The staff opens specific sterile kits for each procedure. Inside the kits are numerous supplies, not all of them used in every procedure. The leftovers were previously thrown away. Now they are dropped into a bin and picked up by MedShare for distribution around the world. Second, think of a forklift in a Kimberly-Clark warehouse. A pallet of boxed medical supplies is accidentally dropped. The carton is dented and no longer good enough to sell, but the supplies inside are still sterile and perfectly usable. Destination: MedShare.

I cannot tell you everything about MedShare’s wonderful story in this space. Visit their web site and blog for more information. Wait, I will tell you four more things:

1. Most of the medical supplies collected are not used for art. Only those that have expired or are no longer in demand are used for art.

2. In delivering supplies, MedShare respects the recipient communities. They don’t just send whatever’s available. They use a web site to post what’s available, and the recipients select only the specific supplies they need, thus avoiding creation of waste.

3. Another channel for delivering supplies to underserved communities is the medical mission. When doctors volunteer their time to help out in a clinic or hospital, they may take MedShare-collected supplies with them. Medical missions help out overseas as well as in some underserved U.S. communities.

4. MedShare runs with volunteer power. All of the supplies that come in to MedShare in bins and boxes must be un-boxed, sorted, and re-boxed. MedShare averages 1,500 volunteers a month. And they can use you. (770) 323-5858.

Medshare sorting area

Volunteers sort materials here.

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About Susan

One of the founders of WonderRoot Creative Reuse.
This entry was posted in Creative Reuse, Materials, Places, Profiles and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to MedShare: Creative reuse, in more ways than one

  1. Nancy Reu says:

    Very interesting – I didn’t realize so many medical supplies would go unused without Medshare. Looking forward to seeing the works of art, too!

  2. Pingback: Creative Reuse and The Art and Science of Environmental Education |

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