Make room, Michael Recycle. You’ve got company in the yard at the City of Manteca’s Solid Waste Division.
His name is Recykel the Recycler, a cartoon character sketched in crayon and born from the imagination of 9-year-old Camden Steckler, a third-grader at Woodward Elementary.
Recykel graces the side of two garbage trucks in the city’s fleet of 30, and each picture collage features a garbage truck, recycling bin and his cohort in conservation and reuse – Michael Recycle.
“I love kids’ artwork,” said Rexie LeStrange, the Superintendent of the Public Works Department. “They’re always so creative.”
Though Recykel the Recycler was conceived in the mind of Steckler, the cartoon character – who bears a striking resemblance to Frankenstein – was introduced to the world by LeStrange, who coordinated the community outreach art project last spring.
She visited with the Parks and Recreation Department and challenged the students of the after-school program Kids Zone to submit pictures about recycling and protecting the environment.
At the time, she hoped to replace some of the division’s outdated signs and in-house advertisements.
“We’ve always had signs that say ‘Makes sense to recycle,’ but they’re kind of corny,” LeStrange said. “I thought this would be something different. … If it gets kids involved with recycling and interested in the environment, then why not do it?”
The response has turned the yard – a place of industry, loud sounds, funny smells and steel-toed boots – into a virtual museum filled with bright colors and whimsical picture stories.
Eight pictures were selected for 94-by-30-inch signs, and each one was received warmly by its driver.
“Most of them are fathers,” LeStrange said of her team of drivers, “so they were open and receptive. I haven’t heard one negative thing about (the pictures).”
Steckler’s art adorns two trucks: a commercial garbage truck driven by Troy Pelicas; and another that rarely leaves the yard.
On Friday, Steckler and his parents, Mike and Keri, were invited to the Solid Waste Division on Wetmore Street to see the artwork.
There, he was made an honorary member of the department.
“Mr. Master Recycler!” LeStrange bellowed, welcoming young Camden into her office.
He took at seat behind LeStrange’s desk, swiveling back and forth, and summed up his reaction to the whole experience with three simple words: “Oh. My. Gosh,” he said with a toothy grin.
He was eventually greeted by Pelicas, a friend of the Steckler family through Manteca Little League. From there, Pelicas steered the tour outdoors.
The sixth-year driver was the first to notify the Stecklers of the enlarged prints; he broke the news at baseball tryouts.
“I just recognized his name,” Pelicas said.
He led Steckler into the yard, where they took pictures next to and inside the truck. Steckler tugged on the horn, gripped the steering wheel and watched as Pelicas operated the forks at the front of the rig.
He was also re-introduced to Recykel the Recycler, who has built up quite a following since the day he was created.
Pelicas visits approximately 80-90 businesses on his route every day, canvassing the city from 5 to 11 a.m.
“He’s never going to forget this day,” LeStrange said.