In 2003, Recycle Camp experienced a long, strange, successful year, a year of reflection, perseverance, and growth. Returning leadership and core volunteers helped us once again to provide a vital service to Black Rock City and its citizens. Our over-the-top results of 2002 drove the positive energy that pushed us through planning and preparations for 2003, starting back in January. This positive trend continued to surge through every participant who contributed throughout the event.

We were once again sitting pretty on prime Center Camp real estate, directly behind the café. Although fewer early arrivals showed up for set up this year than in previous years, we were represented as of August 19 with a couple of core crew members and a couple of first-timers. We had most of the camp infrastructure set up by August 22, including kitchen, lounge, and power. Recycle Camp unveiled two new geodesic dome structures for 2003. The first was a 17-foot diameter dome that housed our communal kitchen and also proved to be a great meeting place for the crew. The second dome, also 17 feet in diameter, was configured to be over 14 feet tall in the center, making space for a beautiful lounge space, complete with shag carpet, couches, a hammock, and the motivating sounds of the Recycled Music Series 2003.

With only two days left before the gate officially opened, we still had to build our shade structure, put together the world-famous “can crusher”, and get the bike cart fleet ready to go. Recycle Camp made a decision to take charge of our own shade structure in 2003, reducing our dependency on DPW resources. The task proved to be a learning experience and a source of a sense of accomplishment that words cannot describe. The new shade structure was designed as an A frame that stands over 20 feet tall and spans 20 feet at the base. It was a beautiful addition to the camp and a Beyond Belief testament to the hard work of volunteers. It was built so that we could take it apart and store it in our container for re-use at next years’ event, where it is sure to be even more beautiful than it was this year.

With the arrival of more volunteers, everything fell into place. The kitchen was filled with food and finished off with decorations and lighting. The decorations, lighting, and sound systems quickly went up in the Recycle Lounge, as well. Our neighbors, Bike Repair Camp aka: RE:Cycle Camp, showed up on Friday, and work began on the bike cart fleet. The can crusher took the better part of Sunday to get together, but the volunteers worked straight through the first white-outs of the year, and we were ready to collect and crush cans right on schedule.

Recycle Camp, like most of Burning Man, is made possible by the hard work and collaboration of volunteers. We experienced some change in our core crew in 2003, since our veteran volunteer coordinator could not attend the event this year. A volunteer stepped up to the challenge to help spark up a spirit and vibe that attracted returning and new volunteers alike. The tightest-ever group of core volunteers camped with us. We even had a camp shower set up by Wednesday afternoon.

As a theme camp, Recycle Camp’s primary goal is to educate participants in proper waste disposal, while taking their cans away and crushing them. By the end of the event, we had collected approximately 100,000 aluminum cans, crushed them, bagged them, and delivered them to the Gerlach School, where the principal works with students and volunteer parents to transport them to a recycling center. The proceeds, approximately $900, go to the school to fund such programs as the annual prom. We are proud to be one of the supporters of the local community through our efforts at Burning Man. We know that it is possible only through the efforts of all Black Rock citizens.

As citizens of Black Rock City, one of the camp members’ key goals this year was to reduce the amount of waste generated by Recycle Camp itself. We accomplished this goal through education, group consensus, and follow-up monitoring. We found that one of the best ways to spread the word about recycling and overall waste management was to start with ourselves and work to make our camp a stellar example. We were even featured on the Earth Guardian theme camp tour this year. We plan to grow into a larger role as a model camp for all participants and for the event as a whole.

Our education plan included daily visits to other theme camps, both registered and otherwise, and this effort was a great success. We enjoyed more interaction with other camps than ever before, and many more camps brought their cans to us this year. We will continue this practice in the future, possibly involving an art vehicle. Plans are in the works to build an art vehicle that would crush cans as it moves about the playa collecting them, at the same time spreading the messages of the Burning Man Project, the Survival Guide, Recycle Camp, Leave No Trace, and Pack it in, Pack it out. We see the role of Recycle Camp as developing creative, imaginative, interactive ways to educate participants while providing a vital service and having fun while getting our job done. We will continue to grow into that role.

Again in 2003, Recycle Camp, like most of Burning Man and most of life for that matter, was an evolving story of progress and development. We set our sights continually higher as we plan for coming years. Come find us on the playa next year, we’re on the map. Pitch in and help us educate everyone on how to keep Black Rock City a beautiful place–one can at a time.

Positively submitted by,