Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Does Recycling Require Additional Money, Time and Commitment?

Recycling our scenery required more steps at strike than we had been used to in the past. Since we only rent our performance space while our show is running, we could not recycle on site.

In the past, when we would strike our shows, we would have a 40-yard dumpster delivered to the theatre’s loading dock. The set would come off stage, have its reusable hardware removed and then go right into the dumpster.

[Photo1 – You can see that some wood, residue from adhesive, paint and fasteners remain on and in the steel. This is not a problem for the recycling company – as long as you find the right recycler.]

In order to recycle, we had to take a few more steps and spend a little more money.

We had to transport our scenery back to our scene shop (about 10 miles away from the theatre.) Because everything has to be out on our last performance day, we had to rent two 24 foot trucks (we usually only need one.) The set had to be repacked into the trucks.

Upon arrival at the shop, we had to call another overhire crew in to unload the trucks. Next, we took two days to strip the wood from the steel frames and remove any reusable hardware. Once the wood and steel were in separate piles, we had to cut down some pieces of steel so that we could get it all into the dumpster.

The recycling company delivered the dumpster and a few hours later the steel was ready on its way to be recycled.

Overall, the recycling process added an additional two days to our strike. But a funny thing happened on the way to greening up our strike process…

Demand for steel (A Weak Outlook for Steel Makers) has been falling throughout the world over the past several months. When the recycler did not return as promised for the wood, we called. And we called again. And again. And once more after that. Finally, when we reached a person and asked why they hadn’t returned the truth came out – their company did not feel that it was worth their time to work with us. We didn’t generate enough steel for them.

Undeterred, we found another company, Renovated Metals who was more than happy to work with us. And in fact, they even hauled away some odds and ends (including an old storage container) that we needed to get rid of in order to re-arrange our back yard to allow us to have trash, steel-only, and wood-only roll off dumpsters.

However, Renovated Metals, as their name implies, only deals in scrap metal. Without anyone willing to take the scrap wood from the set, we were forced to throw it into the landfill.

[Photo2 – Childsplay’s John Emery and Matt Brown dismantle scenery for recycling.]

We will continue to look for a regional recycler for our scrap wood. However, it has become clear that, no matter how we approach it, it will be more expensive to recycle than to just dump our sets. Recycling will therefore require a commitment from the entire company, not just the production department. We will need the support of management, fundraising, and board members to generate the additional funds for recycling services. We will also need to look for ideas about educating our audiences and potential donors about the importance of sustainable stagecraft…possibly adding a “green” service fee to tickets or setting up a special fund as an add-on to our annual appeal. We are eager to hear ideas from the field: has anyone been able to generate consistent support (not just a grant here or there) for sustainability efforts?

--Anthony Runfola & Jenny Millinger, Childsplay

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