Collecting material from the waste stream of San Francisco / by Lora Martens

The most exciting part of Recology's Gardener in Residence program is the opportunity to collect out of the public disposal section of the dump (or technically the transfer station). The transfer station accepts waste 7 days a week 363 days a year. 

I have been a collector in the dump for a only a few hours a week for only a couple of weeks but I have seen people throw away enough construction debris to build a house, enough furniture to fill it and enough household detritus to clutter it up about 100 times over.

 

 This is a small pile.

This is a small pile.

 This is a big pile

This is a big pile

The warehouse which accepts the public waste  is where items which were designed, manufactured, distributed, displayed, chosen, purchased, used, kept, outgrown, packed and disposed end up in this space where all of this, collectively, become a formless river of waste.  

 

 

The transfer station is a loud, noisy, chaotic but orderly place with employees moving and sorting the river of waste, and with new people constantly coming in to add their treasures to it. The river of waste ebbs and flows, it grows and shrinks, it has a rhythm and a personality and every person I have met who work within this flow has been in awe of it. 

Including myself. 

It has been a privilege to be able to collect items for my project from the vast stream of the disposed. Trash is a very raw and honest medium and being at the dump, reaching into that river of waste and plucking out something that used to be connected to another person's life....It's like being able to see a bit of the collective soul of San Francisco. Every car that pulls up is a hundred stories and what they leave behind is a hundred more. I could spend my whole life in the dump doing art and never run out of inspiration. 

 

 The only time I take my camera out is when it's calm like this. 

The only time I take my camera out is when it's calm like this. 

 Do you see trash, or do you see art supplies?

Do you see trash, or do you see art supplies?

 The internet of things has become the trashpile of things...

The internet of things has become the trashpile of things...

 There are 13 bays in the transfer station for people to dispose in. 

There are 13 bays in the transfer station for people to dispose in.