One Man’s Trash: From Landfill to Zerolandfill

Lauren White

Let’s get this straight. Old carpet samples were never trash to Interface Account Executive Jeff Krejci. Interface was already collecting used carpet tile samples from its customers, but Jeff recognized the need to also collect and recycle Interface’s swatch books and other  commercial product samples at Cleveland, Ohio design firms. So, he started picking up the materials every Friday and bringing them home rather than letting them go out into the landfill.

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(Left) Interface account executive Jeff Krejci drove around to design firms and filled his car with discarded samples each Friday. (Right) He then took the samples home and paid his kids to help with the recycling efforts.

Out of this concern for discarded materials came the brainchild called Zerolandfill ­– an upcycling program that re-purposes expired specification samples (think carpet, laminate, upholstery, etc) and diverts this material from ending up in local landfills.

“Interface has the unique ability of instilling a philosophy of always looking for a better way to manage material that may have value to others,” Jeff states. “Zerolandfill was created to provide a way to repurpose commercial architectural and design materials that no longer have any value to the firms that used these materials.”

In the beginning (back in 2003), Jeff paid his kids $1 per book to pull out the carpet swatches, which were sent back to Interface for recycling, and he recycled the remaining cardboard binders at a local facility. “As you can imagine, my kids were getting rich and I was going broke,” he said. The Zerolandfill program was in motion but needed a better formula.

Jeff and some friends took the next step in 2006 and rented Pods (portable storage units) for holding the material. They organized drop-off days for interior designers to bring the material to them. The materials were sorted into separate Pods for concrete, wood, paper and carpet that Jeff and team would fill and recycle.

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A stack of neatly organized product samples ready to be “upcycled” by teachers, artists and assisted living activity directors.

“Over time we realized that the material we collected had value, but we needed a way to make it easy for people to find and reuse these items,” he said.

Soon after, the Zerolandfill team found a vacant space to use for gathering and sorting the materials. The drop-off days are now known as “Pollination” days and the space is opened up to educators, assisted living program coordinators and artists on “Harvest” days to search through the materials and take whatever they need – for free.

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Members of the IIDA chapter in Indiana work to sort donated and collected materials in preparation of an upcoming “Harvest” day.

“To our amazement we had lines of people waiting for us to open and our sorted material disappeared,” Jeff said. “It was a beautiful sight! People can’t get over the fact that we give the stuff away. For many teachers, it saves their art programs by providing supplies they otherwise couldn’t purchase on their limited budget.”

Thanks to a strong partnership with the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), the Zerolandfill program has grown over the last 12 years to 30 cities and has repurposed over one million pounds of architectural library materials. Most of the locations are now sponsored and managed by local IIDA chapters. Interface honored Jeff with the prestigious Ray C. Anderson Sustainability Award in sales for his leadership on the Zerolandfill initiative.

Jeff’s Interface sales team partner Katie Hauser adds, “Jeff and I both play integral roles in running our Zerolandfill programs in Akron and Cleveland. That’s right. We have so much ‘stuff’ we easily fuel two programs in just Northeastern Ohio!”

Our beloved founder Ray C. Anderson once said to “Brighten the corner where you are.” Zerolandfill is a bright spot in many corners thanks to the vision and determination of our own Jeff Krejci.

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Old product samples have so many uses! Interior design students from Kent State University repurposed product samples for a “Diamond in Raw Form” couture dress for the IIDA Cleveland Akron Product Runway event.

Posted in Category Culture & Play, Sustainability | 2 Comments

2 Responses to: One Man’s Trash: From Landfill to Zerolandfill

  1. Nelson Wong says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I am an architect who is also recycling old material samples into art forms.
    – Eco art. Perhaps we can join efforts in some way.Please email me and see what unfolds.

    Nelson Wong

  2. Summer Brittain says:

    Way to go, Jeff!!!

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