Receiving props from long-running crime series “Law & Order” may have rubbed off on the Film Biz Recycling staff.

Although the original show ended in 2010 after a two-decade run and gave way to several spin-offs, Film Biz workers are filling its void with their own detective work at the Gowanus, N.Y.-based reuse center, which accepts props from TV shows, commercials, theater productions and runway events that took place in New York.

Film Biz Recycling founder Eva Radke said employees like to investigate deliveries to determine what a production was about.

“We get everything from paint to high-end furniture, lighting fixtures, linoleum, rugs and yarn. It all depends on what the show is,” said Radke, 40, who founded the business in 2008. “We do forensics.”

The center, with nearly 90 tons collected this year, has received items from commercials for major companies like Target, JCPenney and the Westin hotel chain to sitcoms such as “30 Rock.”

The nonprofit group doesn’t charge for dropping off materials, and 60% of what comes in is redistributed to local charities. The rest is sold through its Prop Shop to fund the store, which Radke calls a “resale boutique.”

The center also features the Re-Gallery that showcases work from artists, including some who work directly out of the center.

Radke said the artists get to use the shop space and materials while Film Biz receives a portion of their sales in a partnership where “everybody wins.”

Tyagi Schwartz, founder of Dog Tag Designs, has operated out of Film Biz for nearly a year.

Schwartz up-cycles and repurposes objects, creating furnishings such as lamps and tables out of them. For example, he’ll take an old fan or toy truck and use his electrical expertise to turn them into lamps.

He marks his creations with dog tags bearing when and where they were created to give them a sense of history.

The repurposing business is gaining steam during a stagnant economy, he said.

“I think people are starting to look at things a little differently,” Schwartz said. “I think now, people are aware of not wasting money and saving. I think that could be part of the gain in popularity.”

For 15 years, Radke worked in the entertainment industry as an art production coordinator on movies and commercials, including Campbell’s Soup ads and the film “Flight 93.”

After projects wrapped, it was Radke’s job to call dumpster companies or find new homes for the props.

Radke’s time in the business exposed her to the industry’s wasteful tendencies, and she said it helped her realize there was a need for an outlet that made use of props.

Before starting Film Biz, Radke formed a Google group in 2007 that served as a forum for her and around 30 colleagues that allowed them to tell each other what they had left over after productions.

“Waste can create green jobs, save neighbors money and help the industry reduce their footprint,” she said. “Instead of throwing it all into a dumpster, it comes here and creates opportunities. It’s not waste, it’s an opportunity. You can do something with it.”

Radke said she cringes when she thinks that most of the quirky props and vintage pieces in the 11,000-square-foot warehouse would have ended up in a landfill.

Film Biz is located just blocks from the Gowanus Canal superfund site, but Radke said a revolution is underway in a place that is riddled with “toxic areas” and “tons of brown fields” as the new economy takes shape.

“I think the model we built here is an integral part to the new economy. We have to look at what we’re doing and what we’re throwing away. It’s not the planet we’re saving, it’s us,” Radke said. “We need to use the resources we have on hand. That’s not political, that’s smart.”

Contact Waste & Recycling News reporter Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com
or 313-446-1653.

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