On Saturday, February 15, 2014 our CommunityGrows Spring BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) cohort when off to explore trash at Recology. Recology is an integrated resource recovery company headquartered in San Francisco, California. The company collects and processes municipal solid waste, reclaiming useful materials that would have otherwise been buried in a landfill. The company also runs transfer stations, materials recovery facilities (MRFs), and a small number of landfills. Recology is the largest organics compost facility operator by volume in the United States. The name Recology is a combination of the words “recycle” and “ecology”.
After a slide show about recycling at the Environmental Learning Center (ELC), which houses a classroom, and gallery featuring work made by artists who have participated in the Artist in Residence (AIR) Program, everyone donned hardhats and neon yellow-orange vests. Then it was off to see two of the artists who are interning there. The AIR is a unique art and education program that provides Bay Area artists with access to discarded materials, a stipend, and a large studio space at the Recology Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center. By supporting artists who work with recycled materials, Recology hopes to encourage people to conserve natural resources and promote new ways of thinking about art and the environment. The first artist was Jamil Hellu, a photographer who was setting up shopping carts with discarded debris-mannikins, and other eye-catching things. He was planning to photograph them with unusual backgrounds. In the next studio we met Matthew Gottschalk. He uses puppetry, sculpture, painting, video and photography to tell stories about history, good vs. evil, empathy, replication and humor. He showed us a puppet he did which looked exactly like him.
After visiting the artists we went out on the grounds and talked with employees who recycle paint, which can be sold back to the consumer. The air was filled with thousands of seagulls as we peeked into the building that compacts garbage for landfill. No cameras allow, and because of the cool, overcast day, not too much odorous smell.
One of the highlights of the tour was walking through the sculpture garden.
One particular sculpture titled “Stanley” was done by Dana Albany in 2002. It looked like a large flying bug, and was made of an aluminum propeller, metal cable, saw blades, green sprinkler knobs, tea kettle, stainless steel bowl, steel faucet, rebar and brass knobs.
Another highlight of the day was meeting Robert and his Brown Goshawk Falcon. Recology has begun to address the infestation of legions of several gull species who gave up hunting for meals in the San Francisco Bay to forage through garbage at the site. These birds are huge, and there’s a lot of of ’em! When they eat the garbage they can become unhealthy, poisoned, have digestive blockage and injuries. The birds are also a nuisance to the workers at the site. The idea is to use falcons to chase away freeloading gulls and divert them toward their natural food source.
Finally we toured the transfer station, also known as “the dump”, a local hub for resource recovery. You can bring your discarded large items, electronics, TVs, florescent light bulbs and construction debris here.
The BEETS enjoyed the day and had a few quotes:
“My favorite part of the tour was the sculpture garden. I think I might be able to make art out of scrap.” -Joana
“I liked seeing the hawk and how it scared away the seagulls.” -Hakim
The BEETS also learned about jobs at the Recology Center. As of 2002 Recology employed approximately 2,100 people. The company is 100% employee-owned through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). Great day with lots of insights and information shared! Here are some more photos from the day.