Broadway Sets Get Recycled

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Broadway productions are no small ventures. They are often elaborate and costly. The sets, costumes and lights all contribute to the glamour and glitz of New York City’s theatrical marvel. Thanks to the Broadway League’s Broadway Goes Green initiative, “The Great White Way” has become more eco-conscious, with much of the production materials headed for reuse or recycling, rather than to the landfill.

In the past, sets and costumes from closed shows were auctioned to the highest bidder or sent to the trash. The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car, for example, waits in storage for a collector to snatch it up. The entire set of the original “A Chorus Line” production, including pieces of the stage, were auctioned off to Broadway enthusiasts. But as the New York Times recently pointed out, it is rare these days that a show is legendary enough to merit an auction of its set, props and costumes. The curtain closes with most items ending up in trash bins.

Rather than making the landfill its next big stop, this tire found a second life after a cast member took it home. Photo: Fclo.com

Rather than making the landfill its next big stop, this tire found a second life after a cast member took it home. Photo: Fclo.com

Thanks to the initiative announced in November 2008, the materials and sets from more than a dozen Broadway shows that have closed since December won’t be headed to the trash heap. Over 15,000 pounds of steel, wood, fabric and carpet from the closing of “Boeing-Boeing,” “The Seagull” and “13” are headed for recycling and another 17,500 pounds are headed for reuse by other theaters and charities around New York.

The initiative calls for new recycling and reuse production practices, including:

  • Mandatory recycling by production cast and crews, including the recycling of all electronics, toner cartridges, batteries and CFLs
  • Use of 100 percent recycled paper by all productions
  • Recycling and reuse of costumes, props and sets whenever possible
  • Designers are encouraged to reuse sets from previous productions, use recycled materials in set, costume and lighting design and use vendors committed to using recycled materials

Though environmental impact is still high, the move is a giant jazz step forward for an industry where recycling once symbolized the remaking of an old show.

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