Strolling over water without a trace

They were one of the highlights in the summer of 2016: the “Floating Piers” created by the artist Christo on Lake Iseo in the north of Italy. The 81-year-old’s gigantic installation, three kilometers long, attracted more than 1.2 million visitors.

Floating PiersNumerous sightseers strolled over the water: the piers led from the mainland to the island of Monte Isola, and from there to the smaller islet of San Paolo. What is now left of the 16-meter-wide walkways? Nothing. Christo attaches huge priority to having his works recycled.

Born in Bulgaria, Christo Vladimirov Javacheff together with his wife Jeanne-Claude made his name with some spectacular happenings: it was in 1995 that he first caused a huge stir in Germany by wrapping the Reichstag building in 100,000 square meters of polypropylene fabric from the Schilgen company in the Münsterland region. Back then, everything disappeared after three weeks – without leaving behind any trace, let alone waste.

Floating Piers
Within six months, a host of helpers assembled Christo’s vision of the “Floating Piers” from a scaffold in the water: the yellow upper material gave the piers their final look.

But the artist didn’t simply have the materials destroyed. The German Altex company was already handling the recycling back then. And the floating piers, too, found their way afterwards to Gronau in the Münsterland region. In the summer of 2016, 100,000 square meters of golden-yellow material and the backing nonwoven produced by Altex arrived there.

One year later, nothing of this is left. Altex cleaned and shredded the materials concerned. A routine job for the company, which recycles about 3,000 tons of textiles a month. The fibers of the yellow polyamide fabric were turned into needle-felt. This material is used primarily as insulation or protection under plastic films – in gardening and landscaping jobs, for instance. Parts of the material can even be found in roads now. The backing nonwoven is nowadays found on riding arenas – in the shape of small textile chippings. Mixed with a layer of sand, they provide extra stability. This makes the ground harder, and offers better protection for the horses: thanks to the additional material, the animals don’t slip as often. And this process is right in line with Christo’s beliefs: his project has vanished entirely, but the material lives on.

Floating PiersFloating Piers