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Flashy trash.

What's junk to you could be a jackpot for somebody else.

In the African country of Kenya, for example, a tin can is often more than just a tin can. Craftspeople there transform cans into lamps, kerosene stoves, and even megaphones (not for cheerleading, but for saying public prayers). An empty soda bottle can get a second life as a musical instrument - just add a metal rod to strike it with. Even kids become natural recyclers, making their own toys out of materials like wire, cans, and fruit juice cartons.

"African craftspeople have to be pretty inventive," says Ivan Karp, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute. "They don't have access to the same materials we do. A repairman there recycled a piece of tin to patch the cracked distributor on my car. Show me the mechanic in the United States who can do that."

RECYCLING GENIUSES

Could we ever be inventive enough to cut down on the 4.1 pounds of trash that each American generates every day? We'd better learn to, since 80 percent of the remaining landfills in the country may be full by the year 2009. Some experts say we've got to do more than just recycle - we've got to buy less stuff, reuse what we buy, and recycle the rest. Can it work?

It has for Chris and Cindy Burger of Whitney Point, New York. They have a compost pile to use up food waste, and recycle so much of their glass, metals, paper, and plastics that it takes them two years to fill up one 32-gallon trash can.

"Our kids don't know any other way to live," says Cindy of her two daughters, Jennie, 14 and Debbie, 11. "We've been recycling for 23 years."

How serious do you have to be? Ask yourself these questions before you buy anything, says Chris. "Do I really need this? Will it last? And when it wears out, can I recycle it?"

JUNKYARD GENIUSES

Even serious recyclers like the Burgers gather their metals and plastics and turn them over to somebody else for recycling. But some people actually go looking for trash. Why? Because trash can be recycled into art. Just ask Seattle sculptor Pam Bayette.

Wearing work boots and a hard hat, she rummages through industrial dumps to find the metals she needs for her huge sculptures. (Some critics describe them as "jewelry for giants.") Her idea of a great find? Stacks of computer circuit boards, strips of copper from car radiators - even bolts and gears of interesting shapes.

"When I'm in those dumps, I feel like I'm sifting through our whole culture," she says. "Technology is changing so fast, things become obsolete quickly - like computers. I try to look at those discarded forms, and figure out what other function they might have."

Artist Rick Ladd looks at things like bottle caps, cereal boxes, and tin-can lids and sees furniture. His furniture makes you laugh - and think, too. After all, why shouldn't a dresser be pyramid-shaped, have a clock in the middle, and be covered with painted bottle caps?

"My work shows that recycling can be more than just putting out newspapers that will be turned into more newspaper," says the 33-year-old New York artist. "It just takes a little imagination."
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:art from junk
Author:Bedway, Barbara
Publication:Science World
Date:Dec 4, 1992
Words:543
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