Last week Saturday was a perfect sunny day for a visit to the beach or a walk. As a result, I went on a tour of San Francisco’s Recology. The city’s trash ends up here. The company sorts the garbage with a future goal in 2020 of zero waste in mind. In addition, Recology has established numerous innovative practices to convert waste into positive use or treasure.
But can garbage represent beauty? Well, yes it can. According to their website: “The Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco is a unique art and education program that provides Bay Area artists with the rare opportunity to create art from trash.” During the tour, the group was introduced to two current artist in residents. One was Jamil Hellu who is recreating scenes from discarded photos and memories into pieces of art. The other was Matthew Gottschalk whose work includes the reenactment of a Moby-Dick narrative and diary through video, props, and puppets.
Artwork from previous Recology artists in residences:
Part of the tour included the Sculpture Garden featuring over 35 pieces made from trash. Marta Thoma’s piece was a highlight:
Pictures weren’t allowed in the sorting areas, hazardous material drop off, and “the pit” where all the garbage that can’t be recycled resides. That trash is placed into a truck and dumped into the city of Livermore’s landfill across the Bay. The sheer scale of everyday waste is amazing. However, San Francisco keeps 80% of their garbage out of the landfills, which is the highest rate in the country. If I saw this much waste here- what is it like in other states and globally?
The CBS television show 60 Minutes recently featured a story called The Recyclers: From Trash Comes Triumph about a poor “slum” community in Cateura, Paraguay that receives 1500 tons of solid waste each day. The small town’s only industry is sorting the trash of its country due to large landowners kicking people off their plots. Favio Chavez, an environmental technician, started a children’s music school with instruments made from garbage. Now his student’s are playing all around the world and have hope for better lives. He saw a need and expressed to reporter Bob Simon: “These are children that were hidden, nobody even knew they existed. We have put them on a stage and now everybody looks at them and everybody knows they exist.”
Humans should be known for making this planet a better place to live instead of encouraging its destruction. We can live in a zero waste world and hope I’ll be alive to see it. Companies like Recology and individuals like Favio Chavez should be commended for their creative efforts. It’s now our turn to our part this holiday weekend. Recycle doing nothing into change and/or art!