On October 12th, with generous institutional support, Monterey Institute students in EAPP 8315: Focus on Sustainability traveled to San Francisco to visit one of the most innovative “waste management” facilities in the country, Recology. The company supports SF with recycling, composting, and artist-in-residence measures, all aiming to reduce waste. Below, students from the course relate their experiences and learning from that day.
Hyuk: Before taking this class, I had never thought about sustainability in everyday life. To be candid, if someone had asked me to go to a recycling factory like Recology, I never would have visited this kind of place. As time goes by, however, my heart is getting soaked by sustainability. Especially, when I saw the workroom of two artists, coupled with the Brazilian artist addressed in our class, I was reminded me of the term, Cradle to Cradle. After our visit on Recology, it is quite intriguing that I find myself always thinking about and considering sustainability. For example, when students in my Policy Analysis class had to figure out the effects of New York’s Soda Law preventing manufacturers from selling sodas exceeding 16 ounces, I naturally answered that we can reduce the trash due to the size of the bottle.
Kentaro: This week, we went to San Francisco to visit the Recology facility. What surprised me was the largeness of the plant. I had never been to such a plant before. Some people were sorting garbage, but the plant is equipped with a great number of conveyor belts. Before going there, I thought the plant would smell like garbage. Of course, it smelled a little bit, but the smell was different than I expected. The smell attracted many seagulls, and they were looking for their food in the pile of trash. Seagulls are cute, but how can we repel them? A plant staff member showed us a falcon that chases seagulls. He told us that falcons are the fastest birds in the world.
What can we do to reduce trash? I think one of the best ways is to sort trash before sending it to the dump. If we do so, the plant can reduce the number of workers, and the cost will be cheaper. Actually, many Japanese sort their trash much more strictly than Americans. I was astonished when I came to the U.S. because the government did not regulate it.
Kouassigan: Our visit to the Recology in San Francisco has been one of the exciting moments of the first part of the semester. This trip offered me the opportunity to have a tangible experience with one of the important aspect of sustainability: recycling. I discovered how recycling occupies a major part of the environmental policy of San Francisco. It is worthy of praise how all the necessary resources are put in place to make the recycling possible.
Beyond this recycling process, I was more delighted in the training that the center offers to artists. The works of the artists on the site were very beautiful, and more they appeal to thinking. The works reveal power and ingenuity beyond measure because they are created out of landfills. It is just amazing how beauty can be crafted out of mess and throw-aways. It is quite understandable to use good standing materials to create arts, but using trash and materials that were at a specific time judged useless and “socially dead” and thrown onto the landfills denotes more of the high degree of creativity. These artists rectify the way society uses materials by giving them new life prolonging thus, their usefulness. How much more art could have been created if all the landfills of the world were put into robust recycling processes!
The Art of Waste
Aoi: Several unique arts intrigued me when we entered the building of Recology. All of the arts were made from recyclable materials. Some of them looked really robust. I like its concept of “trash is also important resource.” That’s why they changed their name of industry to “Recology.” Visiting all the facilities of Recology reminded me of my experience when I was five years old. I did visit this kind of factory in my hometown, Japan. I was surprised that Japan has had this kind of industry for a long time, while Recology is one of the most famous recycling companies in the United States. I guess it took a while for the U.S., one of the largest consuming country, to accept the concept of recycle and actualize it. All the functions and concepts of Recology were almost same as the one I visited in Japan. Except one thing: Art. Trough visiting Recology, I was really impressed by its idea of creating arts from “trash.” Fortunately, we were able to meet one of the artists and hear his story. It took a few years for him to get the job as an artist there. He is really proud of his job and enjoys designing creative arts with his colleague. I also heard that there was some artwork made from materials flowing in from the tsunami in Japan. I learned that we can not only waste or recycle materials but also innovate, designing creative materials.
Ougar: The field trip to the Recology facility in San Francisco was a very special experience. Prior to the visit, I thought that the place would look like a huge space fill of garbage. However, it turned out to be a facility with robust capacity where artists, chemists, and an aviculturist work collaboratively to rectify environmental damage in California. For example, the chemists deal with toxic materials, such as old paints. The aviculturist trains eagles and hawks to scare the seagulls and subsequently prevent them from eating plastic waste. As for the artists, they create masterpieces out of wood, papers, and iron. These creative works stand in a beautiful garden in the middle of the complex. They reminded me of a similar kind of art in Baghdad where figures were made out of guns and armor.
Interestingly, people of San Francisco appreciate the vital role of the Recology facility. They deliver their chemical waste to the specialists who measure the level of toxicity. Overall, these recycling services are ideal demonstrations of the cradle-to-cradle concept.