Did you know that it is so expensive to pay drayage and other freight fees for furniture for trade show displays that companies often buy the product at Ikea and then throw it in the trash because it is cheaper?

What if you knew that some of the product you were coveting during all 4 days of the Craft & Hobby Association trade show was sitting in a dumpster behind the Convention Center hours after the show closed?

How would you like to know that the bags, goodies, and freebies that are so frugally passed out at the show are later left over in such quantities that they are thrown away?

The swag bags you'd kill for are being tossed in the trash by Designers, bloggers, and retailers who can't fit it all in their suitcase to get it back home.



This is not an indictment of the Craft & Hobby Association. This is not an indictment of the companies exhibiting at CHA. This is not an indictment of Designers and bloggers.


This is a plea for your help.


For your ideas, solutions, and consideration in helping fix a problem in our industry. I am not what I would call a “granola” green activist. But common sense, a little logic, tells us that throwing away furniture and thousands of dollars in products after a trade show is ludicrous. But it happens. Here's some reasons why:

  • It IS cheaper to buy cheap furniture and toss it at the end of the show than to pay the unions running the convention centers to haul it in and haul it out.
  • After consecutive 15+ hour days on the trade show floor, company staff is too exhausted to look for a solution.
  • They plan to allow designers and other organizations to take the excess product but they either don't show up to collect or they don't have enough man-power to collect the product so it gets tossed out instead.
  • Designers don't have enough room in their bags to haul all this swag home without a huge cost, usually about $50 per extra bag or $100s in shipping cost to ship it back home.
  • CHA used to partner with charities to get all the donations collected and sent to a worthy cause but they don't seem to anymore….not sure about this. Clarification: I don't know who and if CHA works with charities right now as I cannot find any literature about it on their website. I do know Charity Wings has a presence at CHA and collects donations. I do know some exhibitors work with specific charities on their own as well. This doesn't mean CHA doesn't work with charities – it means I personally am not sure about which charities they work with.
  • Charity Wings is there to collect but they don't have enough man-power and let's face it – by the end of the show, they've worked 6-10 days of 15+ hour days and they are exhausted as well.
  • Many people don't stay to the very end of the show so there are not enough people to take home the excess.
  • The company brings too much product because they don't want to run out.
  • People in the company get sick at the show and demos, classes, and other activities that would have used the product are cancelled.
  • The dumpsters are on private property and closed to the public – no one is back there dumpster diving to get the free stuff and put it to good use.

Rather than just complain and point out how “bad” this situation is, I think we should discuss it and come up with some viable solutions to the probelm. We've got a year until the next Mega Show, starting January 8, 2015. I am hoping that we can come together with some ideas and manpower to help solve a few problems:

  • Take care of the haul-out of excess furniture and product so the companies don't have to pay to do it or figure it out when they are exhausted at the end of a show
  • Get the furniture and product into the hands of organizations that can use it for good
  • Help us all feel better about leaving behind LESS
  • Be an example to other industries
  • Do it all in a safe way

Please take a moment to fill out this Google Drive Survey. Leave a comment and tell me, CHA, and anyone who will listen what you think of this problem and SPECIFIC ideas you have for solving it.

Then share this post over social media with your crafty friends. Together, we can find a solution for this problem!!!

Update 5:30pm on 1-22-14: From the comments here and on my Facebook timeline, it is pretty clear that not everyone is clear about what I am trying to do here. So I wanted to post very frankly and plainly to  clarify a few things:

  • This is not meant to bash or criticize CHA
  • This is not meant to bash or criticize charities
  • This is not meant to bash or criticize any companies
  • This post is about finding a solution to a problem I observed
  • Other CHA members from all categories have made comments to me about the same problem
  • Some people are unclear about which charities to work with and HOW to work with them
  • I want to see if anyone else is in agreement before I bring this issue to CHA
  • and if and when I DO bring this issue to CHA, I want to be bringing them some solutions as well, solutions that don't require a lot of effort or time from them to implement
  • And if we do find a solution, I would love for it to be a model we can use in other industries.
  • I want our industry to succeed!!
  • Seriously, I do not want any drama and I hesitated posting this because I was afraid of some backlash. Let's take a positive tact here – let's find a solution if there is one. And if there isn't, then so be it.


Author: Jennifer Priest

It started with jewelry, beading, sewing, home decor, painting, basket weaving, pottery, and cross-stitch. Marry that to an entrepreneurial spirit & at 9 years old a girl is selling her wares at craft fairs as far as her parents and grandparents would drive her. These days, Jennifer enjoys crafts of all genres from sewing to scrapbooking to jewelry with a little dabbling in the mixed media world. Her style is approachable and she wants everyone who sees her work to feel that they too can embrace creativity and make their home and life beautiful.

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9 thoughts on “Trash You’d Kill For

  1. Are there typically already other main events being schedule for the days following the CHA events? Is it possible to have a “yard sale/freebie take away” during the days following the event? Local schools? Girl Scout troops? Retirement homes? Shelters? What about assembling “grab boxes” and offering them to the craft community for shipping charges alone?

    Posted on January 22, 2014 at 6:40 am
  2. It would be great if there was a local company for the MFGs to rent their shelving and displays from.

    Posted on January 22, 2014 at 7:37 am
  3. Hi Jennifer, CHA does still have an affiliated charity (I want to say that it was the United Way, but I could be totally wrong) who comes by with a huge dolly at the end of the show, during tear down asking for throw away/donation products. (They came by our booth during tear down this year.) So, there is still a good, viable option…not sure why companies would not take advantage of it. Seems pretty crazy if what you are saying is true because it would be a tax write off for the donating company.

    My experience being on the show floor during tear down for the past 10+ years is that while a lot of advertising materials get thrown out during tear down, and yes, some furniture, there is very little product left on the show floor by the end of the night. But perhaps your experience has been different?

    Posted on January 22, 2014 at 1:24 pm
    1. Thanks Carolyn,

      I saw lots of product this year. And some of it was given to charity. CHA worked with Kids In Need in the past but I was told that they weren’t working with them any longer. I haven’t reached out to CHA yet because I know they are still recovering and I don’t want to reach out to them without some solutions to offer. Charity Wings has always been at the shows as well, but they don’t have the manpower to always take advanatge of the offers they get.

      Posted on January 22, 2014 at 3:54 pm
      1. Hi Jennifer, I left a comment on your face book post as well. I am feeling really badly for CHA because people who have never been to the show are reading your post thinking that a ton of GREAT things are just sitting in the trash post show. I will tell you, that is SO far from the truth. Walk the show floor at 7 or 8 at night and there is NOTHING usable sitting around. Maybe immediately post show you see stuff, but as tear down carries on and the charity starts going around collecting items, most useable items are picked up.

        I just hate seeing people thinking that CHA is totally ignorant to the great philanthropic opportunity in front of them when they DO work with a charity for donations of product post show. Could they do better? Sure, but there are a lot of people reading your post who are leaving thinking that CHA does nothing to facilitate the donation of left overs from the show. That, to me, seems wrong.

        Posted on January 22, 2014 at 5:01 pm
        1. I understand your viewpoint. I can’t help that people are reading things into this post. Just as some people start thinking of how they personally can use the products for themselves, and not for charity when I was pretty clear we should be considering this for charity.

          If there is somewhere that people are bashing CHA because of my post, please let me know and I will set the record straight. But I think I was pretty clear that is not an indictment of CHA or any of the players involved.

          It may seem that there is not much left at the end of the show but alot is still thrown in the trash. For example, slat wall for several booths was put into the trash because there was no manpower for the charities to whom it was offered to collect it. Designers tossed goodie bags into the trash because they can’t pack it all. And CHA/Cre8time was telling multiple people that they were going to throw away the Brother Scan N Cut totes and coffee cozies they had passed out during the show if no one took the excess home.

          This isn’t specifically a CHA problem. It a a trade show problem. If we can find a good solution, then awesome! If our solution is super good, maybe it can be a model to other industries. I only want good for our industry. And maybe we can’t find a solution. My post is meant to spur discussion and to come to CHA with solutions. They are always open to discussion but I didn’t want to approach them until I had some good solutions to bring with it. I make no assumptions – that the companies know or don’t know who to donate to, etc. I do know that everyone is tired at the end of the show, including CHA staff so asking anyone to do ONE MORE THING is not a good solution. I am lookinf for outside help to faciliate collecting any unwanted items and getting them to the right people. And if all it does is help charities that are already working the CHA floor, awesome!

          Posted on January 22, 2014 at 6:25 pm
  4. I’ll be watching the replies to see if anyone has any answers. I can see events like this generating huge amounts of cast offs,but it is an ongoing problem with almost all of your large chain stores. I have begged,pleaded-even cried with my local Mike’s (which actually breaks up their throw aways so they are unusable and has a security camera focused on their dumpster),Hobby Lobby, and Walmart for their” garbage”. Decorations and crafts that could be used for nursing homes and schools,even clothes- all thrown away. They cite a lot of legal mumbo jumbo-mostly about liability issues. If you contact their corporate offices they deny it happens. Target is a notable exception-they donate vast quantities to Goodwill and the Salvation Army. It breaks my heart but I have yet to find a solution.

    Posted on January 22, 2014 at 1:54 pm
    1. I think the first step is to keep talking about it and bringing awareness to it. And then we can take actoin legally, picketing, etc. I don’t know what solution there is but at some point we will reach critical mass with the amount of trash we generate, especially if we keep tossing useful items in the trash.

      Posted on January 22, 2014 at 3:58 pm
  5. Re CHA: Since this is something we know is coming ahead of time-what about involving youth groups-Girls Scouts,Boy Scouts,lots of high schools,colleges, churches have community minded organizations-to help pick up and distribute the left overs where they could be best used? Shoot even if only a few groups could help-it’s a start. Sure wish I lived closer.

    Posted on January 23, 2014 at 8:30 am