Photo shows kids participating in Reusapalooza at the Iowa State Fair

Photo shows kids participating in Reusapalooza at the Iowa State Fair

REUSAPALOOZA, by Shelly Codner, Area 2

Since 1990, the Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE) has assisted Iowa business and industry in the diversion of value-added commodities formerly destined for the landfill. In addition to diverting materials from the landfill, Area Resource Specialists are committed to educating both the businesses community and the general public in the protection and enhancement of our natural resources in accordance with the waste management hierarchy – Reduce, reuse, recycle, renew. In addition to speaking at workshops, conferences and corporate lunch and learns, Area Resource Specialists also plan and execute various special projects to facilitate their educational priorities. One such project that explores the reuse area of the hierarchy includes Reusapalooza – a one day event held annually at the Iowa State Fair.

2018 marked Reusapalooza’s sixth year at the DNR Courtyard at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. At Reusapalooza, fairgoers (adults and children alike) are offered the opportunity to create upcycled, take-home projects and to view onsite demonstrations of items that can be created from upcycled materials. Three projects and one demonstration are selected annually. Project selections are based on IWE interactions during the previous year and by evaluating available materials that might potentially be used in executing Reusapalooza. Shelene Codner, Area II Resource Specialist and Reusapalooza organizer ensures that all projects offer a hands-on learning opportunity for all skill levels.

Projects in 2018 included an upcycled vinyl banner bag, a first aid kit made from upcycled DVD cases and a refrigerator animal magnet made from upcycled advertising magnets. An onsite demonstration taught fairgoers how to make plarn (plastic yarn) and substitute it for yarn in their crafting/art activities. 

This year, with the assistance of other IWE Area Resource Specialists, DNR staff members and volunteers, 306 projects were completed onsite. Since the inaugural year of the event nearly 2,500 projects have been completed. Demonstrations throughout the years have included upcycled wood art, creating textile yarn, pallet string art and creating composting bins from upcycled materials. Several fairgoers have reported that Reusapalooza has made their annual checklist of things to do at the Iowa State Fair.  Plans are already in progress for next year’s event.

For more information on the Iowa State Fair, visit

For more information regarding the Iowa Waste Exchange and additional Financial and Business Assistance Programs, visit

For additional information and instructions for upcycled projects visit to access the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s Pinterest page.

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