Burning Man 2005 was the best year yet for Recycle Camp.It was the camp’s tenth year on the Playa and the eighth year as an official Burning Man Community Services theme camp, located once again near 6:00 in Center Camp, right behind the Café.

Recycle Camp has grown up and built a family and a following, and this continuity has helped the camp smooth its operations. Among nine returning campers this year, three were veterans of 5 or more years. The crew of returning “Recyclenauts” is both a helpful and enjoyable luxury. In addition, more people showed up earlier for set-up, making the whole pre-event week run better than in the past. With our fearless leader busier and busier each year, the camp plan and infrastructure must be easy for everyone to understand with quick set-up. We made a plan with clearly defined roles for each core team member among the early arrivals. We got the kitchen dome up first, then the chill space, because you have to have a place to relax in the shade. As each team member showed up, the next phase of set-up began, although we always left room for last-minute inspiration.

We acquired a new dome structure for 2005 and undertook a challenge to do something that had never been done with a dome at Burning Man, so far as we know. We designed and built a ramp type structure 9 feet off the ground on one side that stretched all the way to the ground on the opposite side, creating an octagonal shape completely open in the middle. The first volunteers to arrive helped get the dome built, then the rest of the project had to wait for the professionals who were due in at the end of the week. The whole structure was completed on Saturday afternoon by two volunteers who arrived on Friday. It really helps to have a couple of carpenters in your camp. We slid the new 24 foot diameter dome onto the ramp and we had the first ever amphitheater style shade structure/workspace made with a geodesic dome. It was an excellent achievement! A new 24 foot diameter, white cotton, parachute – British military surplus circa 1950s – was dyed and painted into a magnificent piece of art by two more volunteers and put onto the dome for the first time at the event. It fit perfectly and looked stunning. We received compliments on the dome cover throughout the week.

Recycle Camp had another successful year collecting aluminum cans and educating Black Rock City citizens. We were up and running on Monday morning, with the first cans coming in about 9am. After 8 days of educating and talking, collecting and crushing, stomping and bagging, we had over 250 burlap bags filled with crushed cans. We donated over 100,000 cans to the Gerlach High School at the close of the event – approximately 3,500 pounds of aluminum that fetched about $800 for the school. We are proud to give back to the local community while at the same time being the voice for respecting, rethinking, reducing, reusing, and recycling in Black Rock City. We were once again featured on the Earth Guardians Model Theme Camp Tour, an honor that we strive for as responsible citizens of Black Rock City.

Recycle Camp confronted some aspects that could be tweaked and rethought. We need to design and build a better kitchen, for instance, one that stays clean, is used only for cooking and cleaning, and isn’t the main hangout where everyone leaves their stuff. A camp kitchen to provide meals for our volunteer campers has been a real success by helping to build the family environment in the camp. We get a lot of visitors and volunteers everyday, and many of them comment on how inviting Recycle Camp seems. We are already planning for a bigger and better kitchen as an addition to our infrastructure in 2006. We would also like to build a waste management sculpture/station for the camp. We will construct it out of recycled materials to provide receptacles for all types of recycling and waste produced by our own kitchen including a place to dry out compost items. Its design will allow us to take it apart and store the components in our container for reuse from year to year. It will be an example for other camps to learn about separating their waste.

We also plan to improve our camp perimeter. We have tried many ideas over time, some good and some that just looked bad. In 2005, we used old, nonfunctional bicycles to create a sort of fence effect. This design will continue for 2006 and beyond, as it reuses materials that we already have to create something of a functional art piece while providing a well-defined perimeter.

We had a few set backs with our monster aluminum can crushing machine this year. The crusher, dubbed the Blue Duck, is really a working prototype, and as with any prototype, it challenged us to work out the bugs. We had a major failure of the custom dropout that connects the drive bike to the machine, resulting in serious damage to the drive bike. We also experienced a few too many failures of the axles on the two barrels. Fortunately, we have one of the best welders in Black Rock City on our team, and the machine was back up and running with a minimum of down time. Plans for 2006 include redesigning and building two new barrels. We may even increase the size of the machine just a bit.

Recycle Camp, like most of Black Rock City, is driven by volunteers, and in 2005 dozens of participants dropped in to lend a hand each day. For 2006, we are putting out the word for a new volunteer coordinator. We are looking for that perfect someone, a wrangler of sorts who will inspire, recruit, excite, and energize the future Recyclenauts. The search is on, are you the one?

We are getting excited about the coming year! Are you? E-mail us at if you would like to be a part of the best experience on the Playa. See you all in 2006!!!

Positively Submitted by,
Paul Schreer, aka Blue