Found objects take on new uses at New Paltz Reuse Center’s Recycling Recipes workshop

Last Saturday morning at the New Paltz ReUse Center, John Wackman, Eric Bravo and Alyce Conklin created "recycling recipes" for people wondering what to do with odds and ends available at the center. The project ideas have been posted by the materials so others can use them. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Last Saturday morning at the New Paltz ReUse Center, John Wackman, Eric Bravo and Alyce Conklin created “recycling recipes” for people wondering what to do with odds and ends available at the center. The project ideas have been posted by the materials so others can use them. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Working towards a zero waste stream and recycling can be creative and inspirational if approached from a different vantage point. To that end, the Town of New Paltz Reuse Center, located at 3 Clearwater Road, hosted a free “Recycling Recipes” event for the public where residents could come in, peruse the many new-yet-recycled objects at the Center and get inspired to turn this “stuff” into works of art, boxes, birdfeeders, door curtains, marker-holders — as many uses as the mind could imagine that the materials could create.

One resident, Alyce Conklin, a recently retired schoolteacher, is a big supporter of the Reuse Center and attended the Recycled Recipes event. She took a wooden wheel (one of many products from the Woodstock Chimes manufacturing plant that recently relocated out of Ashokan), used it as a base, attached a plastic tube, cut a hole in it, placed a top and a wire hanger on it, and within a half-hour she had a gorgeous birdfeeder.


John Wackman took a thick pink bracelet, wrapped it around a golden chime (from Woodstock Chimes) and then encircled it with vine wreaths, turning it into a visually stunning piece of work that could be used to hang in a window, as a base for a vase, an attractive holder for spare change or keys — any number of things.

“I’m a resident of New Paltz, and thought this was just a great idea: to have a creative workshop using all of this leftover piecework from some manufacturing company that would otherwise add to our ever-growing and toxic waste stream.” Wackman said that when he first visited the Reuse Center, he found the objects interesting but “soulless.” “This is a creative way to put some of these pieces together and give them a soul, give them a purpose!”

“We just wanted to open up the Reuse Center for creative minds and let them run wild, which they did!” said Laura Petit, the Town of New Paltz recycling coordinator.

Gloria Waslyn, a supporter of the Reuse Center, said that she is hoping to create a similar model in her hometown of Shandaken. “So many breakthroughs come from the arts,” she said. “We live in a disposable society, and it’s killing our planet; it’s killing us. But kids can get turned off — adults can too — by hearing the word ‘recycling’ over and over again. When you bring people into this Center and get them working hands-on, creating something that would otherwise be thrown out, it engages them in a positive way. They ask a different question: ‘What we can do with this stuff? How can we turn these materials into something beautiful or useful?’”

For artists, the Reuse Center is a visual feast. For residents looking to do some work around the house on a limited budget, the Reuse Center has doors, windows, tiles, rug remnants, maple molding, lighting fixtures…so many things that can help homeowners do it themselves at a fraction of the cost, while helping to repurpose and reuse things that otherwise go into the landfill.

As Petit said, the Center will hold another Recycling Recipe event at some point, but it’s one of many events that the place has coming up. Already New Paltz is leading the way to its 2018 goal of becoming a Zero Waste Community by reducing the garbage leaving the Clearwater Transfer Station/Recycling Center by 20 percent in 2012. New Paltz was recruited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to represent EPA Region 2’s pilot Zero Waste Partner Community, one of only 13 communities selected in the nation. Through the tools made available by the EPA, information-sharing with the other 12 pilot municipalities and new programs such as food waste composting and recycling rigid plastic, New Paltz reduced its outgoing garbage by over 100 tons.

“I want to thank the users of the New Paltz Recycling Center for committing to the Zero Waste Initiative,” said Petit. “Not only was the waste going out reduced by over 100 tons, saving the Town $10,000 in disposal fees, but the public saved $4 in household expenses for every bag that didn’t end up in the garbage container.”

Town supervisor Susan Zimet said, “It is an honor to be a Zero Waste Community. Our recycling program is doing great things, and everyone should visit the new Reuse Center. It is full of surprises. I look forward to working with the community to move the Zero Waste Initiative to the next level in 2013.”

To that end, there will be an information session on January 16 and 17 at the New Paltz Community Center on how the community can start a “tool library,” as the Reuse Center already has a bevy of tools. Wolf Bravo has volunteered his expertise to conduct a “Tool Fix-It” workshop at the Reuse Center where you can bring in a broken tool and he’ll help you to fix it; or you can take a broken tool at the Reuse Center, fix it and keep it! That will take place on Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

There is a schedule of free workshops for a minimal cost on container gardening, vertical gardening and window farming for those who do not have gardens, and “Compost 101.” To learn more about any of these events or the Reuse Center, just call Petit at 255-8456 or e-mail her at

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