Everything Old is New Again

In the next thirty years, the Earth will be a huge dumping site for our useless junk. We might have to build our houses and schools on landfills, swim in oceans filled with visible factory wastes, and have our kids play in a sandbox with broken computer monitors and TV sets. Maybe within the next century, when our planet is too hazardous for humans to live in and we have moved to outer space, robots like Wall-E will continue boxing up recyclables, as if that would make any difference.

Scary, right? It is terrifying to think that at this very moment, families in other countries live next to and on top of landfills and garbage dumps. If this continues to be an ongoing problem our future will not look very promising relying on hovering chairs and living in outer space.

As far as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states, there were a total of 1,754 landfills in America in 2007. According to the United Nations Environmental Protection Programme (UNEP), "tens of thousands of square kilometers of land worldwide have been contaminated to date by inadequate landfills and the unsafe handling of hazardous waste." This clearly is not good news for us.

The piece of good news being delivered comes disguised as trash sold as supplies for art and DIY (do it yourself) projects. To reduce the amount of waste that contributes to landfills, the superheroes over at SCRAP (Scroungers' Center for Reusable Art Parts) offer low-cost supplies from recycled materials. These supplies are gathered from the common public and manufacturers who are willing to donate their "scraps" such as textiles, jewelry findings, wood, buttons, and all sorts of plastics. It is literally a thrift store for artists and crafters.

"It is in the nature of an artist to examine the world through the materials found in our environment," Kenan Shapero, director of SCRAP says. "It changes more for the individuals who have not been exposed to the concept of creative reuse. People, not just artists, make anything you can think of out of SCRAP materials."

Last year, SCRAP diverted 200 tons of materials from a landfill and stimulated creativity and environmental awareness in both children and adults.

"I'm not really an artist," says Montgomery Rene, a San Francisco resident, who has found all sorts of treasures at the SCRAP depot "The stuff I get from SCRAP isn't really in just one thing; they're all over my house." She usually gets fabrics, buttons, threads, ribbons from the depot that she has turned into skirts, shirts, curtains, and pillowcases. She loves what SCRAP is doing and feels inspired every time she goes there. "They're making our city a very sustainable place to live in by reusing things," explains Rene. "There's no need to create more and throw away more. I think everything can be recycled."

Kellie Peach Nash, a show-by-show artist and freelance curator who runs agentpeach.com supports independent artists and is in the constant hunt for new and upcoming talent. "Art is an expression of our being," Nash says. "It's a way of articulating things that can't be put into words; Making magic out of junk." Like Rene, Nash also finds her art supplies at SCRAP such as newspapers, acrylic paint, and colored pencils.

"There's so much good stuff out there that isn't being used," she says. "SCRAP is incredibly cheap and it supports [artists] especially in times like these."

SCRAP is not the only one encouraging us to make something special and useful out of someone else's garbage. Since the 1960's, the East Bay's Albany Bulb has been a place for the disposal of construction and industrial debris. Currently, the dumping of garbage has stopped and The Bulb is now a state park with plants and trees and an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It also is a home for artwork created by the homeless and artists alike. Rene thinks it is a wonderful place where people come together and make art out of the garbage they find in the dump. "There are all these wires, scrap metal, and concrete slabs sticking out of this amazing jungle of industry," Rene says. "It's such a great testament to what we've already done."

SCRAP is located at 801 Toland in San Francisco and their website is www.scrap-sf.org



Ashley Mcdonald | staff photographer
Artist, Kellie Peach Nash, poses for a portrait at her apartment in San Francisco on Tuesday Sept. 29, 2009. The two pieces of art she is holding are made from supplies she found at SCRAP.



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