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What Do I Do With My Samples?


Image courtesy of Material Bank

Material samples are required on projects to help design professionals understand the color, texture, and the overall feel of a material, to confirm that subcontractors are ordering the intended product, and to create a control sample for production. Oftentimes, multiple samples are ordered for various team members and to understand the overall aesthetic effect. While this is an important practice for quality control and assurance, these materials most frequently end up in landfill as there are not many resources around recycling samples. Some manufacturers may take their samples back, but this practice is rare. Here is a list of resources in and around the Bay Area on how to recycle material samples:


Material Bank is a platform which aggregates samples from 450+ manufacturers and makes it easy to order samples.

  • What samples are accepted: Material Bank accepts items from any of their Brand Partners, whether delivered from them, or directly from the brand.

  • How to send samples: Request return packaging by selecting “Request Return Packaging” when ordering your samples and a prepaid return label will be included in your package. If you have already submitted an order, simply request return packaging and it will be delivered with the next order. You can include as many samples in your return as possible. Material Bank eliminates excess waste by consolidating packages and reducing shipments.

Save a Sample redirects professional level material samples away from landfill and gives them a second life in the hands of talented design students to use on their school projects. With support from Armstrong, Save A Sample for Students partners with design firms throughout the United States and Canada to provide students with richer resources at no cost to design firms.

  • How to send samples: Complete this form and Save a Sample will connect you with local design students.

Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores offer an easy way to drop of building materials.

  • What samples are accepted: Restores accept a variety of different building materials. Call ahead to your nearest Re-Store and ask if they accept the materials at the time.

  • How to send samples: Check out your nearest Re-Store and drop off your samples.

SCRAP is a Creative Reuse center and arts education nonprofit founded in 1976 in San Francisco. This organization helps reduce waste by diverting over 200 tons of materials heading to landfill every year.

  • What samples are accepted: Fabric of all kinds (Must be clean, free of smells, and 1 YD X 1YD), Cotton, Leather, Upholstery, Oil Paint, Acrylic Paint, Foam core, Vinyl, Small Tiles (under 1 in x 1 in) and many more non-architectural items. Check out the full list here.

  • How to send samples: Go to the Scrap SF location at 2150 Newcomb Ave, San Francisco, CA on Tuesday to Saturday, 10 AM - 3 PM. Please check out the Welcome Donations and Unacceptable Donations on website before heading to the store.

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