An upright piano is over 200kg of finely crafted veneers, iron and timber framing, ebony and ivory keys, strings, wires and other metals. When it’s no longer useful, most of these materials end up in landfill. Pianos Recycled in Melbourne has been working hard to change this story by deconstructing, recycling and repurposing generations of musical heirlooms.
A piano used to be the most valuable item in a home: paid off over several years and passed on to children or grandchildren. It was the heart of social and family gatherings. Today, electronic music, and the uptake of more portable instruments, sees many pianos gathering dust. Eventually downsizing or an estate clear out tags them for removal.
Piano tuner and restorer, Mike Hendry, hated seeing delicate craftsmanship and exotic veneers casually smashed up for the tip. So in 2016 he teamed up with environmental scientist Sandra Klepetko, and social innovator Peter Humphreys, to form Pianos Recycled.
Pianos Recycled takes a more circular, hands-on approach to household recycling. Instruments that are unsuitable for repair are fully deconstructed into recyclable metal, woodworking timbers and parts. The Keysborough workshop and associated craftspeople then offer customers:
– pre-loved pianos for hire or purchase
– high quality veneered timbers and piano pieces for woodworkers and artisans
– conversion of family pianos into contemporary furniture and keepsakes like tables, trays, jewellery boxes, watch boxes, picture frames and mirrors
– upcycled jewellery from ivory and ebony piano keys.
Finding a market for each component and building consumer demand is a long term project for every recycler. One piano can have more than 12,000 individual parts so Pianos Recycled charge a fee to collect and recycle each instrument. A rubbish collector would also charge for removal but this way a well-loved resource lives on in new incarnations.
Piano Recycled’s upcycled goods, or pieces made by other makers, can be issued with a Certificate of Heritage detailing the history and provenance of all materials. It’s a great way to present a unique gift or family memento.
There were over 700,000 pianos imported into Australia between 1800 and 1900. Many are getting close to retirement so there is a slow growing bank of rare timber and parts for those who recognise their value. Makers, upcyclers and anyone interested in unusual, high quality furniture should contact Pianos Recycled and run through your ideas.