Recycle Camp

Recycling is very important to Black Rock City (and every city, really). Naturally, there is a theme camp dedicated to this principle.

Black Rock City Recycle Camp – Our Mission

  • Collect, Crush and Recycle as many aluminum cans as possible in a week.
  • Discourage the use of glass on the playa.
  • Encourage reusable water/beverage containers vs. the single serving plastic bottle.
  • Practice and Promote the 7 Principles of ‘Leave No Trace’.
  • Teach the seething masses the 6 Noble Tenets of Waste Reduction and Recycling:
  1. The 6 R’s Respect – Rethink – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle – Restore!
  2. Prepare! Leave sorry-ass packaging at home!
  3. Never let it hit the ground!
  4. Pack it in, pack it out! and Leave No Trace!
  5. Separate! Sort your recyclables and trash before you discard them!
  6. Create! Supposed “garbage” can be transformed into beautiful works of art!

Recycle Camp is located in Center Camp. During the event, we collect as many aluminum cans as possible. We crush ’em and bag ’em and then we donate them to the Gerlach School. Recycle Camp is run completely by Participants, volunteers who spread the Recycle Camp mantra to all participants, “Bring us your Cans!” Volunteers meander through the city every day riding one of our new, improved and patented bicycle powered Recycling-trucks. The trucks make it possible to collect 10 times as many cans as the old shopping cart version, in each trip. We encourage everyone to come by and help with the efforts. We need people to take them out during the event, spreading the word about Recycle Camp and collecting cans. Join us in recruiting new help throughout the day. Crush some cans. Relax, have a cold beverage and enjoy our camp.

One easy way for you to help is to collect aluminum on your own bike if you have a basket. If you wish to help while driving your crazy art car, remember to register with the DMV. Your aluminum cans may be brought to Recycle Camp by participants, Monday through Sunday 9am to 5pm. While there, you can help us crush your cans and join us in creating recycled art or relax and have a beverage and learn about recycling and sustainability.

Recycle Camp does not collect foil, glass, plastic, tin, paper, cardboard or any garbage. In fact, we discourage bringing glass to the playa altogether and we get really mad when people leave us their garbage. Accomplishing our recycling goals depends on reducing the solid waste stream at the source — this starts with you!!! So please, follow these simple steps, reduce what you bring, separate your aluminum cans and bring them to recycle Camp!!! While you’re at it go ahead and separate out all your recyclables from your garbage that you’re packing out. Each should be dealt with separately.

Recycle Camp is no longer melting cans into bicycle racks or other art. We will leave this to the Dragon Aluminum Smelter, out on the open Playa. Melting cans is not just melting aluminum, but also a lot of paint and plastic as well. This has proven to be too toxic for participants at large and especially in Center Camp. Instead, we will crush cans in the most artistic of fashions and create recycled art, with your help of course.

Wish List

Recycle Camp is a “Live Simply…” type of camp; we’ll always get by on what we have. However, if any of these items are gathering dust in your closet or garage, and you wish to see them renewed and re-used, PLEASE let us know!

  • Couches
  • Big Pillows
  • Paints for decorating
  • Fabric for decorating
  • Bicycle shop tools
  • Bike Repair Stand
  • 5-gallon buckets with lids
  • Solar Oven
  • Grey Water Filtration
  • Folding tables
  • Folding/camp chairs
  • Rugs
  • Original recycled art ideas (please email about this)
  • Anything else???

Some interesting facts about aluminum and aluminum recycling.

Aluminum is an incredibly energy-rich material. Usually its ore is derived from bauxite, though it can be derived from other sources but at a higher price. We have heard that even the playa could be mined for aluminum — fortunately for us, this would also not be cost-effective.

  • Discovered in the 1820s, aluminum is the most abundant metal on earth.
  • In 1954, Olympia, Washington is the first place to offer a deposit on aluminum cans.
  • The U.S.aluminum industry begins recycling in 1968.
  • In 1972, 24,000 metric tons of aluminum used beverage containers (UBCs) were recycled. In 1998, the amount increased to over 879,000 metric tons.
  • In 1972, it took about 22 empty, aluminum cans to weigh one pound. Due to advanced technology to use less material and increase durability of aluminum cans, since 2002 it takes about 34 empty aluminum cans to weigh one pound.
  • Over 50% of the aluminum cans produced are recycled.
  • A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf as a new can, in as little as 60 days. That’s closed loop recycling at its finest!
  • Every minute of everyday, an average of 113,204 aluminum cans are recycled.
  • Making new aluminum cans from used cans takes 95 percent less energy and 20 recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce one can using virgin ore.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for almost four hours or run your television for three hours.
  • In 2005, 54 billion cans were recycled saving energy equivalent to 15 million barrels of crude oil – America’s entire gas consumption for one day.
  • Tossing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline.
  • The average employee consumes 2. 5 beverages a day while at work.
  • The empty aluminum can is worth about 1 cent.
  • Aluminum is a durable and sustainable metal: 2/3 of the aluminum ever produced is in use today.

One reason aluminum is so widely recycled is that the energy required to recycle it is only a tiny fraction of the energy required to obtain it from ore. Every time you recycle 30 aluminum cans, you have saved the equivalent energy of a gallon of gasoline. In 2006 we again recycled over 100,000 cans. That’s the equivalent of over 3,333 gallons of gasoline. The market value of those cans was only around $900, but even after expenses it is a lot to the Gerlach School.

Recycle Camp History

Burning Man Recycling was born out of a red-hot desire to curb the large clean-up effort on the playa. During their first visit to Black Rock City in 1995, two participants, Simon and Diane, were hanging around during clean up and asked the inevitable question, “Why isn’t there any recycling around here?”

An old-timer just looked at them and smiled as he said, “If you want to see recycling here, then why don’t you volunteer to do it yourself?” They set out that very day to pull aluminum cans out of a pile. By the end of the day they had made a serious dent in the pile, and felt they had actually made a dent in what participants had left behind.

Two years later, Simon aka Cap’n Crush and Diane aka Agent Orange, came equipped with one shopping cart vehicle. They managed to collect a few hundred cans the night of the opera and burn, and later during clean up met Harley Bierman-Dubois, Burning Man’s Human Resources Amazon. Burning Man Recycling was born that November, and in 1998 became an official theme camp. Their methods were crude yet effective and they recycled some 20,000 cans that year.

Recycle Camp joined forces with the Burning Man Earth Guardians in 1999 to further the efforts of educating Black Rock citizens to Leave No Trace. Over 75,000 cans were collected and recycled with the money generated going to the Gerlach School.

Recycle Camp was back in full force in 2000 and we set an amazing goal to reach 200,000 cans. We actually collected over 100,000 cans that year, our best effort yet.

In 2001, with many new and returning Recyclonauts, we again collected some 95,000+ cans and helped to fund student activities at the Gerlach School once again.

In 2002, Recycle Camp came under new management. Mr. Blue, a first time volunteer in 2001, took the lead role. With the guidance of Cap’n Crush and the help of a record number of Recyclonauts, over 100,000 cans were collected, crushed, bagged and delivered to Gerlach to be recycled.

In 2003, Recycle Camp took on a new look. The tents were replaced with geodesic domes, one for the kitchen and another for a chill space. We took responsibility for our own shade structure/work space and built an amazing A-Frame structure that was a welcome addition to Center Camp. We had a fantastic group of core Recyclonauts and managed to deliver another 100,000+ cans to Gerlach.

2004 to today Recycle Camp continues to be a leader in Black Rock City, energized by the same participant/volunteer driven hard work that has proven year after year to be able to wrangle a truck load, and sometimes 2, of aluminum cans from the citizens and get them recycled. Since the beginning, Recycle Camp has recycled over 800,000 cans. We’re going to hit a million soon, you can bet on that. What? It’s OK, we’re in Nevada.

Questions or comments? Or if you would like to volunteer, email us at