Here is my collection of photos and a short story about the recycling world in Santa Fe. This was done during my photojournalism class this past semester.
When someone says “recycling” the first thing you think about is probably putting plastic, paper, and glass into curbside bins that get trucked away to an unknown facility. In Santa Fe, that facility is The Buckman Road Recycling and Transfer Station, located off of highway 599. About 26,000 homes in Santa Fe city and county have curbside bins that get picked up and hauled to the site every week. Residential and commercial customers can also bring in loads of paper, cardboard, plastic, cans, glass, scrap metal, fluorescent light bulbs, green waste (branches, grass), and e-waste (like computers, cell phones, and batteries). It is free to dump things that would go in a curbside bin, but there are usually fees to dump other things. Materials are sorted by a series of conveyers and by hand and then baled, stored and, when there are enough to load an entire trailer, sold to the “most responsible bidder.” There are no companies in New Mexico that can reconstitute any of these materials. The weight of bales varies; plastic bales can weigh 750 lb. while some paper bales are 1200 lb and aluminum bales are even heavier. Mike says that right now, the plant sells about 500 to 600 tons of material per month. One interesting thing is that while the facility accepts glass, they don’t have the resources to separate it by color, so it isn’t recyclable to glass manufacturers. The station has been grinding and stockpiling it with the hopes of using it as a landfill liner, a 2 foot permeable barrier to help prevent contamination of the surrounding land, once the city finishes the approval process.
On a smaller scale, Mr. G’s Auto Sales and Pro-Tow off of Airport road will pay individuals and businesses for their recycled materials. A handful of individuals keep the business running with Brian Gutierrez at the front. Mr. G’s accepts all types of metals, cans, cars, and cardboard. Some things, like cardboard, they won’t pay for, but they make sure it gets recycled properly. On the property, they have a large compactor that they use to smash cars and scrap metals into something that can fit on a trailer. It is sold for somewhere between 5 to 10 cents per pound, depending on the market and buyer. When smashing a car, they drain all the fluids and have a company dispose of those and then remove all of the parts that could be reused or sold for a higher value that as scrap metal.
Santa Fe is a city known for having a large art community. Many artists who use recycled materials in their art participate in the yearly Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival. This year, the event is set to take place on November 11-13 at El Museo Cultural. Artists from Santa Fe to Illinois come to showcase their art and environmental awareness. These artists upcycle, where old products are re-imagined and given more value. I talked to three different artists who participate in this festival to learn how they use recycled materials in their art.
One artist is Susan Todd. A clothing designer for more than 20 years, she makes a business out of selling clothing, bags, wallets, and other objects made from old sweaters, plastic billboards, and even a hot air balloon. Susan was invited to visit some of Mary Olsen’s art classes at Wood Gormley Elementary School and teach them how to make “tapestries” out of plastic bags. These are made by placing a few layers of white plastic bags on top of one another after cutting off the printed parts, handles and bottom. This creates the base. Then, colored pieces from other bags are cut out and glued on top with the intention of being ironed between sheets of wax paper so it becomes one single, flat object. Students were encouraged to translate drawings that they had made the previous week into plastic. After all of the pieces were done, Susan ironed each class’s work together horizontally into 4 incredibly long strips. The themes that the kids illustrated were: birds, tall tales, gardens, and friendship.
Kristin Lora is another artist who participates in the Recycle Santa Fe Festival. Originally from San Fransisco, she moved to Santa Fe 9 years ago. She produces jewelry, music boxes, toys, and a lot of other fun objects. She says that she gets much of her inspiration from materials she finds at thrift stores, junk shops, antique stores, and flea markets. Sometimes she will make a piece from found materials and like it so much that she has to buy new things to replicate it. Inside her studio, there are boxes and drawers filled with things like body parts from dolls, clock parts, broken glass, plastic animals, and billiard balls. The walls, tables and shelves of her home are filled with recycled and upcycled artwork as well as many antiques. Her work shows in 40 galleries across the country and pieces have been published in 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse and artful home as well as other publications.
Ravenna Osgood, a 16 year old sophmore at the New Mexico School for the Arts, has participated in the Trash Fashion Show portion of the festival since she was 8. Materials that she has used to create these dresses include newspaper, whole foods bags, Capri Sun pouches, wine corks, plastic gift cards, paper coffee cups, a Harry Potter book, and metal coffee bags. She has placed in the contest every year that she has entered, winning 1st place four different times. Ravenna says that working on these projects “makes you realize how much we use and throw away.” She collects the materials by either saving them herself, asking friends to save too, or going to local business and asking for their waste. She likes to find things that “no one would think to use for an outfit.” Ravenna has a lot of fun collecting the pieces and assembling the dresses and plans on making dresses for more Art Festivals in the future.
Mr. G’s is a private business that buys, sells and recycles all sorts of materials.
Preview from today’s shoots with Santa Fe artists using recycled materials
Preview for Chimayo shoot today. Every year on Easter weekend, hundreds if not thousands of people make a pilgrimage to the church in Chimayo.
Preview from today’s shoot for my photojournalism project on recycling in Santa Fe.
Kids making art with ironed plastic bags.