Guns turn Shovels: An Outstanding Recycling Effort


With the highest rate of gun deaths in the country, the city of Culiacan in western Mexico has always been in the news. And it has been in the spotlight for a different initiative by artist Pedro Reyes. He spoke with the family members of victims of drug crimes in the city and decided to utilize the abundant amount of firearms to help the botanical garden in the locality.

In an outstanding effort of recycling, Reyes and the garden authorities collected 1,527 guns through a campaign for residents to hand over their guns for a coupon that they could use buy electronics or household appliances.

The collected guns were melted down as a part of the recycling project titled ‘Palas por Pistolas’ and these melted guns were transformed into 1,527 shovel heads that are now being used in the community for planting the trees.


The artist says that he focuses on the failures of modern culture in a positive way. He plans to spread light through acts which people take in a negative manner or see as broken. His aim is to show to the world that how can they transform an agent of death into an agent of life.

As much as 40% of the arms collected were automatics of military caliber and the whole of the weapons were publicly crushed with a steamroller at a military base.

And after melting, they were recycled into shovels with an attached wooden handles. After planting the trees in the Cualiacán community, these shovels have moved to the Vancouver Art Gallery, the San Francisco Art Institute, Maison Rouge in Paris and other places and will be seen in the process of planting trees there as a part of the project.

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