Recology Mosaic: Art in the Park made from Trash

Recology Mosaic detail, with Recology logo tile.

Recology Mosaic: Art in the Park made from Trash

The Recology Mosaic: Art made from trash.

Artist: Sue Springer.

North Mountain Park Nature Center: Ecology,

Sustainability, Education, Gardens.

Dedication: April 17, 2013.

Photo essay published February 2023.

“The goal was to create a colorful, permanent and surprising assemblage of materials, to change thinking about trash and recycling.”

From the dedication press release.

Recology Ashland meets North Mountain Park

North Mountain Park is a park. Yes, but not an ordinary park – a park with a goal of education and sustainability.

North Mountain Park Nature Center sign.
North Mountain Park Nature Center sign, with the Nature Center building. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2023)

Recology Ashland is a trash company. Yes, but not an ordinary trash company – a trash company with a goal of Zero Waste and sustainability.

The two – North Mountain Park and Recology Ashland – came together in 2013 to create an education, trash and sustainability themed art piece.

Recology Mosaic overview near the North Mountain Park Nature Center.
In this Recology Mosaic overview, you can see it is located by the walking path and North Mountain Park Nature Center. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2023)

The 2013 origin story, from three points of view

The key players in the creation of Recology Mosaic were Risa Buck (Waste Zero Specialist in 2013 at Recology Ashland), Linda Chesney (Stewardship Coordinator in 2013 at North Mountain Park) and Sue Springer (mosaic artist, owner in 2013 of Illahe Studios and Gallery).

When I interviewed Risa, she opened with, “The project came about because of the camaraderie, the working relationship, that Linda Chesney and I had over at North Mountain Park.”

Risa continued, “I thought the old park trash can and recycle bin area was unattractive; it needed some love.” One day Risa mentioned to Linda the idea of combining a new location for the trash and recycling with some art, and Linda loved it. Linda Chesney said that the recycle bins at that time didn’t have proper location or labeling, and therefore were not used enough. She added, “Making the area attractive by having this wonderful mosaic helped get people to see these bins.”

Risa worked for Ashland Sanitary and then Recology for ten years. For years, she had a vision of taking Ashland trash and turning it into art. Here was an opportunity, and when she presented the idea to her boss at Recology Ashland, he gave the green light and agreed to have Recology fund the art. According to Risa, Linda recommended Sue Springer to be the artist for this project. 

Peace Wall, Sue Springer.
Sue Springer with an illustration of the Peace Wall artwork in 2009 or 2010. (photo by Tia Hatch)

That brings us to Sue’s origin story recollections. “So much of life is about relationships, as you know,” Sue said when I interviewed her. “A woman named Risa Buck, who was working for Recology, came and talked to me. At this point, North Mountain Park had a location in mind to place together all of the recycle bins and a trash bin. Risa’s idea was to put a mosaic on the concrete pad where those bins would be located. She and I talked about it and did drawings. I wrote a proposal that Risa took to her boss at Recology, and the company agreed to pay for it.”

Recology mosaic site
Recology mosaic, site before concrete was poured. (photo from Sue Springer)
North Mountain Park, Recology mosaic concrete pad.
Recology mosaic concrete pad. (photo provided by Sue Springer)

Have fun finding all the “Art Made from Trash.”

“The Recology Mosaic project was a perfect demonstration of one of my favorite quotes: ‘It’s only trash if that’s how you treat it.'”

Risa Buck
Recology mosaic at North Mountain Park, in process.
Recology mosaic at North Mountain Park, in process, 2013. (photo provided by Sue Springer)

The proposal was to make a mosaic using only trash and recycled materials, things that would be saved from going to the landfill. Upon approval, the three women went to the Valley View Transfer Station, where they found large items such as glass bottles, bricks and gate hinges, as well as bottle caps, padlocks, and broken colorful ceramic plates. By visiting local restaurants, Risa was given unusual wine bottles to add to the mix. 

Here’s how the large items became usable for a mosaic. Sue brought her tile saw to the transfer station. Using the saw, they cut the ends off of glass bottles, turning them into thin, multi-colored round mosaic pieces. The sharp tile saw could also cut thick bricks into thin, reddish rectangular mosaic pieces.

Whether looking at the Recology Mosaic in person, or looking through my photos, have fun trying to find every type of recycled material and “trash” that I describe in this photo essay – and many more!

Recology Mosaic detail.
Recology Mosaic detail. See how many types of “trash” you can identify in this small section of the mosaic. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2023)

When the word got out what Risa, Sue and Linda were doing, the mosaic art project received a bag of old, discarded keys from the local Recology office and more from the city Parks Department. You will find them scattered throughout the mosaic.

Recology Mosaic detail.
Keys! Bike parts! Hinges! Bottles! Bricks! and more. Recology Mosaic detail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2021)

Risa also visited a couple local bicycle shops and told them about the mosaic project. Sue added enthusiastically, “We received old bike chains and gears, which were really fun. You could wrap the bike chains in a spiral or you could spread them out, while the gears add a lot of interest to the mosaic.”

Recology Mosaic detail, with a calculator or TV remote.
Recology Mosaic detail, with lots of bike parts and even a calculator or TV remote that was taken from the trash. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2023)

Making art fun and educational

Placed together next to the walking and bicycle path, the recycling containers and trash bin are highlighted by this educational mosaic. The hope is that we will stop to see the beauty of the mosaic art and have our minds opened in the process, perhaps to think in new ways about what is trash and what is not trash.

The Recology company has a long commitment to art and artists, going back to 1990. Their website states that Recology has Artist in Residence Programs in four cities: San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Astoria. More than 170 professional artists and 30 student artists have participated in these programs since 1990. The Recology website explains, “By supporting artists who create work from materials that have been thrown away, the Recology Artist in Residence (AIR) Programs encourage us to see discarded materials in a new light and reflect on our own consumption practices.”

Recology Mosaic dedication on April 17, 2013

Recology mosaic dedication in 2013
Recology mosaic dedication in 2013. Risa Buck is cutting the ribbon., (photo by Pam Lott)

I like the way this press release sets the stage for the dedication: “Please join us for the grand unveiling of Ashland’s first 100% recycled content mosaic. Mosaic materials, including glass, metal and plastics were all sourced locally and recovered from local businesses, homes and the Valley View transfer station. This mosaic was a joint inspiration of Recology and North Mtn. Park personnel who recognized the need to upgrade and revitalize the trash and recycling collection station, while at the same time finding a unique way to reinforce the importance of reusing items once destined for the landfill. Local artist Sue Springer, of Illahe Studios and Gallery, was commissioned to create a nontraditional mosaic of recycled materials, creating this beautiful rendering of the “three R’s”. The goal was to create a colorful, permanent and surprising assemblage of materials, to change thinking about trash and recycling. Remember, ‘it’s only trash if that’s how you treat it.’  Everyone is invited to stay after the ceremony to attend a free presentation by Risa Buck, Recology’s Waste Zero Specialist, which follows the trail of trash and recycling collected in Ashland & Talent.”

Recology is an unusual company

July 4, 2017 parade - Recology recycling truck
Recology recycling truck in Ashland’s 2017 4th of July parade. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Recology’s history dates back to 1921 in San Francisco. The company came to Ashland in 2009 when it bought independently owned Ashland Sanitary Service. Recology currently serves 137 communities in California, Oregon and Washington.

I was surprised to learn on the Recology website that the company became 100% employee owned in 1986, through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). As of 2022, there were more than 3,700 employee-owners.

I was also pleased to learn that “Recology has been an industry pioneer in commercial composting. In 2021, our eight composting facilities transformed 1.5 billion pounds of yard trimmings, food scraps, and agricultural wastes into nutrient-rich compost for local farms, vineyards and nurseries.”

Recology’s Vision: A World Without Waste

This is a BIG vision, and an unusual vision for a “trash” company. As I have tried to express in this photo essay, Recology seems to be an unusual “trash” company. Here’s how they describe the essence of their vision and their mission. 

“The Recology mission represents a fundamental shift from traditional waste management to resource recovery. We seek to eliminate waste by developing and discovering sustainable resource recovery practices that can be implemented globally.”

“North Mountain Park is a jewel for our community”

Recology Mosaic overview plus N. Mountain Park painted utility boxes.
The Recology Mosaic is near Ann DiSalvo’s painted utility boxes. only part of the art you’ll find in North Mountain Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2023)

“North Mountain Park is a jewel for our community in a similar but different way than Lithia Park.”

Risa Buck

Lithia Park is often called “the crown jewel of Ashland,” and rightfully so – going all the way back to 1916. North Mountain Park is not as old, but the small staff and hundreds of community volunteers have created a rich environment there. There are sports fields, walking paths, a 14-acre natural area along Bear Creek, beautiful demonstration gardens tended by community members, a nature-focused playground, lots of art and a wide variety of educational programs.

Before COVID shut so much down, more than 2,000 elementary students each year attended educational programs at North Mountain Park. I hope the Parks Department, Ashland Schools Foundation and local community groups can jointly find the funds to bring back this valuable gift to our children.


Anon. Press Release for the artwork dedication on April 17, 2013. Provided by Sue Springer.

Buck, Risa. Interview and personal communications, February 2023.

Chesney, Linda. Interview February 2023.

Recology website. (

Springer, Sue. Interview and personal communications, February 2023.

Springer, Sue. Website. 

1 Comment
  • Kristin Clark
    Posted at 16:29h, 28 February Reply

    So informative and interesting!
    Your gorgeous photos of the art project’s details make me want to create a trash to treasure mosaic of my own.
    Thank you, Peter!

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