Recycle Camp

2013 was our 16th year on the playa, leading by example and promoting sustainability to the participants of Burning Man. Recycle Camp is a thriving example of the Gift Economy. A vital thread in the fabric and culture of Black Rock City. A family of hard working and environmentally-minded volunteers, working together to create a fun space for Burners to interact and participate.

Recycle Camp is traditionally a mix of veterans and first timers, and 2013 was no exception. The Camp hosted a half dozen newbies and welcomed back an additional two dozen seasoned recyclers. This year was especially international with participants from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. We also had a camper returning from the Peace Corps in Albania! As usual, we had our friends and diehards that don’t camp with us but work with us daily at the camp along with the dozens of participants dropping in, bringing us their cans or just being pulled in off the street. We were pleased to have the Dragon Smelter Crew join us again. This year we set them up on the 6:00 & Center Camp corner with a larger shade than last year to accommodate their growth. They were hanging out every afternoon with their aluminum coin press. Participants were lined up to press their own original souvenir coin from an ingot made from aluminum cans that were collected in Black Rock City. Recycling! Right in front of your eyes and in your hands.

We were really happy with the changes to the camp layout that we’d made last year, so we kept that layout for the most part. The biggest changes were how we arranged our camping area in the back, and a few minor adjustments to the “front of the house”. We built a much more organized zone for our camp’s own recycling, moved our observation tower to be both more prominent and safer, and added an elevated lounge made of recycled wood from our camp Mayor. Despite challenges provided by the weather, camp was a huge success. The success of Recycle Camp is a direct result of the quality of the volunteers, and we’re ever grateful for their contributions.

This year we replaced our first generation sorting tables with some new ones that are built to last, with a few improvements. First, we stenciled them to add a more personal touch. We also increased the slope of the angled portion and the height of the flat portion for easier access. We also laid out our recycled billboard tarps better and marked them so we could re-use them for several years to come. Finally, we spent a long time in the off-season examining the bike-chain drive of the infamous “Blue-Duck”, the state-of-the-art bicycle-powered aluminum can crushing machine. We made substantial improvements such that the machine was never out of service this year, and everyone had a plush comfy ride on our new pink fur-wrapped bicycle frame! We also turned the Crushinator machine sideways so some participants cold more easily see the crushing action of the tumblers.

Our setup crew erected the two domes and installed the camping shade. The shade for volunteer camping – nine 12′ x 24′ sections of green shade cloth that we re-purposed from the Man Base 2007, the Green Mountain – went up flawlessly this year, a huge improvement. The DJ booth was set up ASAP, so we had music while we worked. This year we got a new 3 bin stainless sink for the kitchen which eliminated tons of wasted wood and effort building the sink frame and counters. We replaced all of the counters with re-usable folding tables and the kitchen layout was refined from last year. The rest of the crew arrived throughout the week, just in time to lay out the carpets and the vinyl ground coverings and hang the lighting and décor. We’re ready to go. Bring us your cans!!!

At the end of the event, BRC Recycle Camp 2013 had completely filled two 30 yd. containers with crushed aluminum cans, over 195,000 aluminum cans weighing more than 5,000 pounds. The cans are transported to Earth First Recycling in Reno. The relationship with Earth First is one of the reasons we love doing this, they are great. The proceeds from the aluminum are donated to the Gerlach K-12 School. A check in excess of $1,500 has been prepared to deliver to the school. The students at K-12 School are super-appreciative each year to receive this donation which benefits them directly. The kids tell us about field trips to the art museums in Reno and art supplies in the classrooms. Recycle Camp is honored to continue our support of the K-12 School and the town of Gerlach.

BRC Recycle Camp will always be thankful to the staff, volunteers and participants of Black Rock City for understanding that together we can divert more and more each year away from the landfill. Thank you to everyone for another great year.

Submitted by,

Tom Kapanka and Paul “Mr. Blue” Schreer