2008 was our eleventh year as an official Burning Man Theme Camp and it was our smoothest year ever. A lot of this is due to the core group of Recyclenauts who return year after year. The pre-event planning, the solid build crew, and our best camp layout yet made for a very enjoyable setup week.

The DPW Shade Crew constructed our first two shade structures, providing the early work crew a couple of places to get out of the sun as they were laying out the rest of the camp. As more members of the setup crew arrived, more structures were erected and before long we had our kitchen set up, a deck built, five domes put together and the newest addition to the camp, four large shade structures for volunteers to camp under and around.

After three years trying different ideas and having little success, we finally came up with a simple, easy to build, reusable shade solution. This prototype version will be expanded upon in 2009 to create even more shade for our hard-working volunteers. Veteran crew worked side by side with first-timers to pull it all together on Sunday before the event opening.

Two new sorting tables were built and placed under the shaded workspace out in front of the Blue-Duck, our state-of-the-art can crushing machine. We were up and running Monday morning, right on schedule. Recycle Camp got down to the business of collecting and crushing aluminum cans. Volunteers took turns biking through the city on our double bicycle recycle truck and trailer.

The word about recycling and Recycle Camp really seems to be out there too. As early as Wednesday we had a steady flow of participants bringing their cans to us in Center Camp. This is good news for us because it means that the years of leading by example and educating people to bring aluminum cans and bring the empties to us is really working.

A baby appears terrified on the lap of Mr. Blue dressed as Santa

2008 was our smoothest year particularly because of the depth and diversity of our volunteer crew. We have grown from a crew of seven in 2001 to nearly 30 this year, with the returning crew providing the leadership for the first timers. A significant part of what makes a camp such a wonderful experience are the unique talents and gifts that each person brings to the group. They can be anything from massages to carpentry skills, and we had them all.

As the crew has grown we’ve needed to improve our camp planning, layout and infrastructure. This year, we added sorting tables to the shaded workspace, giving participants and our crew a place to sort the cans without having to do it on the ground and in the sun. This saved many aching backs and kept the mess to a minimum. The camp kitchen was bigger than ever and we were blessed with a dedicated camp chef who ensured we had amazing meals throughout the event. We plan to make some upgrades and improvements to the kitchen for 2009 and beyond, including improved hand washing and dishwashing stations.

In 2008 we switched from putting crushed cans in burlap bags to using old garlic crates that Burning Man acquired from the farms in the area. Each garlic crate holds approximately 10 burlap bags worth of cans, or more depending on how flat they are crushed. We filled over 23 crates just with the cans collected from participants throughout the week. And when Recycle Camp was once again made the recycling center for all Burning Man Departments and Staff Camps at the end of the event, we collected an additional three crates of aluminum cans, five crates of glass, and 12 crates full of plastic. In all, more recycling was collected and removed from the playa than ever before, and it was transported to local recycling centers (glass to the Waste Management Recycling Center in Sparks, plastic and aluminum to Earth First Recycling in Reno) by a phenomenal group of volunteers.

In total, we recycled over 126,000 aluminum cans, or approximately 4,200 pounds of aluminum, and the proceeds were once again donated to the Gerlach School to support student activities. And in the second year of our composting program in the Café and the Staff Commissary, 50 cubic yards of compost were taken to Full Circle Compost in Minden, NV.

For the future, we are harboring dreams of a year-round recycling program in Gerlach supporting Burning Man operations in Gerlach and Black Rock Station, and also the citizens of Gerlach and the surrounding areas.

Anybody interested in the sustainability of Burning Man is encouraged to learn more about Recycle Camp, join us on playa, and be part of the solution in this exciting community.

Submitted by,
Paul Schreer AKA Blue
Recycle Camp project manager