San Jose Mercury News (US), December 2, 2001
Discarded movie sets recycled for new uses
'MATRIX' MATERIAL TURNS INTO HOUSING, INSULATION AND MORE
by Dennis Rockstroh
As I gaze across the old Navy runways at Alameda Point, I can confirm that the mystery freeway is gone.
But, not to worry, it should be back soon in a theater near you.
The 1.5-mile, six-lane freeway to nowhere was part of the set for the upcoming sequels to the movie "The Matrix."
Just in case you didn't see this sci-fi thriller, let me bring you up to date:
Our hero, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is a mild-mannered software writer by day and a brilliant hacker at night. He's needed by the cyber-revolution led by Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne, and a warrior Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss.
Here's the problem they are wrestling with: The world as we know it does not exist. It's an elaborate facade created by a malevolent cyberintelligence to placate us while our life essence is farmed to fuel a campaign to dominate the real world.
The movie battle was on.
Anyway, the war is not over, thus the need for the two sequels currently in production in Australia.
The Warner Bros. crew was in Oakland and Alameda Point this summer, filming at three sets and on the streets of Oakland.
Tons of material
There was the cave set that filled an entire airplane hanger. The cave was made of 45 tons of material, wood and polystyrene blocks.
The tenement set consisted of eight building fronts, three and four stories high. They were made of wood with a brick kind of fiberglass covering. In all, it was made of 92 tons of material.
The freeway set used more than 8,200 tons of concrete, 20 tons of structural steel and about 200 tons of lumber.
And all of that is gone now.
But here's the story: Instead of hauling all that out to the dump, the set material was recycled.
I learned this from the Alameda County Waste Management Authority. One of its goals is to encourage recycling of material that otherwise might be headed for a landfill.
The effort to reuse the material from the three sets was a joint project by Warner Bros., the city of Alameda, the ReUse People Inc. and the waste authority.
The folks at the authority figured that about 95 percent of the sets was put to use.
The ReUse People crews handled all of the deconstruction and distribution of the material. Its crews dismantled the set, piece by piece.
The lumber was sold to a company that builds housing for low-income families in Mexico. Forty truckloads went south.
About 80 percent of the steel was used as is, with the rest recast for use again.
Some 48 fire escapes were sold to area contractors along with more than 60 decorative moldings.
The polystyrene blocks were sent out for use in insulation material.
And the mystery freeway was broken up, crushed and sent off to become road base.
Just what became of one of the signs on the freeway remains a mystery.
But if you're in someone's den sometime, and you see a sign with pictures of kangaroos and the words, "Next 8 Miles," tell them you know where that came from.
You read it in the news.