A Gowanus company that recycles props from New York’s film sets for resale is calling “cut!” on its operation because it is losing money, and now no one will be around to take out the film industry’s trash or hold Hollywood to account for its wasteful ways, said the business’s owner.
“The waste from this industry is growing, and everyone is sweeping it under the rug,” said Eva Radke, the founder and owner of Film Biz Recycling on President Street, which will close on June 20. “They just don’t care and no one’s forcing them to.”
Radke worked in the film business for 15 years and has seen first-hand how many perfectly good costumes and items of furniture are thrown away after a few days of use on set. She started Film Biz Recycling in 2008 with the goal of reforming the way the industry disposes of its detritus.
For seven years, the company swooped in to film and television shoots around the city to save still-good items from being sent to the dump, rescuing between 80 to 120 tons of material a year, Radke said. The outfit then sold or rented out the recovered goods from its sprawling warehouse between Third and Fourth avenues, a labyrinthine basement cluttered with racks of clothing and stacks of chairs, alongside bizarre props such as coffins and bricks of fake cocaine. It also donated many of the more practical salvaged set materials to charities, she said.
But this model was ultimately not sustainable. Radke said the company was only able to finance about 80 percent of its operation through the sales and rentals, and she had struggled for years to make up the difference through grants and donations. Finally, she made a last-ditch appeal to major studios and production companies to help fund the business that literally does their dirty work, but said they ignored her pleas.
Now Radke is trying to keep Film Biz Recycling’s own merchandise from becoming landfill by putting everything in its warehouse on sale. All items will be 25 percent off through May 23, 50 percent off from May 25 to June 6, and 75 percent off from June 8 to June 13. And from June 15 until the business closes its doors on June 20, customers will be able to name their price for anything that is left.
But the bargains are bittersweet for treasure hunters, who say they’re sad to be losing the city’s premier destination for bundles of fake dynamite and vintage rotary telephones.
“The idea of this place was brilliant,” said Maja Rajenovich, a Bedford-Stuyvesant who visited the store for the first time on Monday. “I hate to see all of this go in a dumpster.”
One of Film Biz’s 12 employees said she hopes other eco-conscious members of the entertainment industry will keep the dream alive and eventually team up to create a similar project.
“The responsibility lies in other people’s hands now,” said director of assets and outreach Kristin Sisley, a Park Slope resident who has worked at the company for three years. “There are a lot of people who back what we do, so hopefully sometime in the future they will stand up together.”
It isn’t a big ask, said Radke. The industry could easily clean up its act if it wanted to.
“It’s not medical waste we’re dealing with, it’s mid-century credenzas,” she said.
Film Biz Recyling [540 President St. between Third and Fourth avenues in Gowanus, (347) 384–2336, www.filmb