Recycling in Black Rock City

Any city worth its weight in aluminum cans or two by fours has a recycling program, and Black Rock City is no exception. For a decade now, recycling has been a part of life on the playa; even though our mantra has always been “Pack it in, Pack it out” because “There is no garbage or recycling in Black Rock City.” In truth, that mantra means we must take responsibility for our own trash, including recycling — and some resources do exist to help participants keep their recyclables out of the landfill.

Burning Man, for many people, has become not so much the way they spend their lives for one week out of the year, but rather a way of thinking and acting all year round. The process of leaving no trace should be started before one even leaves their home for the desert, and should in fact carry over into one’s daily life, because the entire planet on which we live deserves to be treated with the same sense of reverence as the playa.

Landfills across the world are quickly filling up and more and more of our precious land is being taken to house the millions of tons of trash that our race accumulates every year. Studies have shown that 25-50% of this refuse is material that need not be filling up these landfills, as it is recyclable. Recycling is cheap and easy, and the benefits are immeasurable. By taking the time to minimize the amount of material that is brought onto the playa (see Trash Minimization), one can minimize the possibility of accidentally having something hit the ground. Additionally, citizens of Black Rock City are encouraged to separate and recycle their waste and to dispose of the trash and recyclable materials appropriately.

Tips and Hints

  1. Create a plan and implement it.

    Figure out the who, what, where and how before you get on the playa.

  2. A Place For Everything!

    Bring appropriate containers for all different kinds of recyclables. Burlap bags are great for collecting aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, since they let air through.

  3. What Is This?

    Label your separate containers boldly so that, even in the dark, your fellow camp mates can easily find the burlap bag for the aluminum beer cans.

  4. The Elephant In The Room

    Set up a convenient location for your separation station. Call it something creative like that and people with talk about it and use it. Try to stick with one central location rather than multiple spots. This helps reinforce the importance of reducing how much trash we create in the first place.

  5. Stay On Top Of It!

    Manage your separation station daily. Make sure things are being properly separated. Aluminum — Steel — Glass — Plastic — Paper/Cardboard — Organics – and finally trash.

  6. Show us Your Cans!

    Take all of your aluminum cans to Recycle Camp. There you can help them crush and bag the cans. Then the cans will be delivered to Gerlach where the School organizes to get the cans recycled and they get to keep the deposit money.

  7. Got Wood?

    Instead of burning all of your leftover, used-for-a-week, perfectly good wood, why not recycle it?  Burners without Borders will be back in force this year once again recycling all usable lumber and building materials, and they need your help!

    Starting Sunday, they will have recycling stations set up near 3, 6, and 9 on the Esplanade. They expect to be open from 10am-9pm, both Sunday and Monday. There you can drop off your usable lumber (full size pieces of 2 x 4, 4 x 4, and plywood only, please; no scraps), as well as certain building materials (pipes, conduit, wiring, tools, and other re-useful non-liquid hardware items). Got some time to kill after the Burn? Help them organize, clean & sort donations!

    You can participate even before the event: make sure to design your camp and art so that it can be easily recycled. They’ll be looking for full lengths of 2 x 4, 4 x 4, and full sheets of plywood, so before you lop off that little end piece, ask yourself if you really need to? And when you’re building, use screws instead of nails — they hold better, go in easier, and also make structures easier to disassemble.

  8. Off-playa Recycling!

    There are several convenient locations throughout the region to responsibly dispose of all of your recyclables, trash, and gray water, and many of them are open 24 hours. Find them here in the Survival Guide.

For More Information on these and other tips:

Contact Blue of Recycle Camp at
and Burners without Borders at

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is there recycling in Black Rock City?
    The answer is no and yes. There is no recycling service in Black Rock City, just as there is no garbage service. No recycling stations, no trash cans. We ask our participants to “Pack it in, Pack it out” and “Leave No Trace”. The one exception to this rule is Recycle Camp, where you can take your aluminum cans only. They collect, crush & bag as many cans as possible in a week and then donate them to the Gerlach School. There the school organizes to recycle them and the school gets to keep the deposit money.
  2. Where do I take my plastic water bottles?
    Pack them out. There is still no camp that collects plastic in Black Rock City. Until there is, it is best to have you carry it home with you and recycle it there, or to dispose of them at various recycling locations to be found listed here in the Survival Guide.
  3. Why can’t I recycle glass in Black Rock City?
    The truth is we discourage people from bringing glass to the playa in the first place. It is heavy and typically takes up more room in your car.  It is also dangerous when it breaks, especially when it gets thrown in a fire. It makes for an annoying mess to clean up that takes hours. If you must bring it, Pack it Out.
  4. I have left over wood I don’t want to haul back home. Where can I take it? Can I burn it?
    Well, you could burn it but that wouldn’t be very smart. The smart thing to do would be to recycle it. Take it to one of the Burners without Borders wood recycling sites at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock along the Esplanade. Help BWB volunteers pull some nails, sort the wood and stack it in neat piles. You’ll feel good and your wood will have a future.
  5. Now that I am recycling, what about composting?
    There’s a whole page devoted to composting, check it out. (see Composting)

Resource Links

  1. Aluminum cans may be brought to Recycle Camp. You can volunteer to help them and ask questions at
  2. There are several 24-hour locations in all directions to responsibly dispose of your recyclables as well as trash and gray water to be found here in the Survival Guide.

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