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Recology and the Art of Upcycling

POSTED UNDER By Our Associates

Earlier this year, our MCOM team in San Francisco had the opportunity to tour an Artist in Residence at Recology – where artists take part in a program to make art out of, well … trash. While this may sound like a novel idea, Recology has actually been hosting this program since 1990, housing more than 100 professional artists and 20 student artists since its inception to make art from discarded materials.

The studio is located at the San Francisco Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center, a 47-acre facility where trash goes before being sent to landfill. The studio receives more than 5,000 visitors each year who attend exhibitions and educational tours, allowing the public to interact with artists.

So … what exactly is upcycling?

Upcycle (ˈəpˌsīkəl): reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.

What makes this different from recycling? When something is upcycled, it’s not being broken down and made into a new material. Rather, it’s being repurposed for a new function, usually made into better or similar quality as the original – such as MMG Senior Art Director Dan Pasky’s quilts from leftover fabrics.

Recology’s Artist in Residence is a prime example of what sustainability and creativity can achieve when woven together. Each of us has a chance to upcycle in our lives, taking something that is old, and giving it a new life. Recology takes this one step further by making these discarded items into pieces of art. It’s a beautiful sentiment – and just as important, it’s great for the environment!

Looking for inspiration on ways to upcycle? Check out Upcycle That.

Do you upcycle? Contact us and share your upcycle story.

  • Chris Sollars, Roger Ourthiague and Jenny Odell

  • Kara Maria speaks with a tour group at Recology San Francisco art studio

  • Ikea Shelf Movable Type, made of carved Ikea bookshelves by Imin Yeh, 2015

  • Untitled III (Red/Brown), made of reclaimed lattice by Barbara Holmes, 2008

  • Untitled, #5 by Barbara Holmes, 2012

  • Befriending Demons by Claire Lynch

  • Exhibition in the lobby of 500 Howard Street

  • Soap, made of fabric woven from plastic shopping bags, caution tape, sponges, vinyl tablecloth, flash cards by Sandy Drobny, 2004; Audrey Hepburn Dress, made of foam sheets, plastic bags, six-pack holders by Estelle Akamine, 1993

  • One Bite: Minding P’s, But Rarely Q’s, made of electrical signage and upholstered seating by Roger Ourthiague Jr., 2015

  • Jackrabbit #51, made of crewel tapestry, leather belt, burlap, steel, filler; Jackrabbit #54, made of denim, bandana, steel, filler; and Jackrabbit 52, made of fur coat, leather, ammunition shells, steel, filler by Beau Buck, 2012

  • Samuel Levi Jones

  • Max Capacity, made of capacitors on wood panel by Yulia Pinkusevich, 2014