DISH IT OUT
You know those little weird grayish-black circular things that are sometimes hanging off of the corners of houses or condos, pointing up at the sky, leaking a few crooked wires down the side of the structure, and in general just really screwing up the whole gestalt of the building? If you’ve ever spent an appreciable amount of time driving around rural areas, you may have even seen the older sibling of these guys, hiding around the corner of the garage, or abandoned to be consumed by ivy behind a deconstructed swing set in the back yard. I think these historically were used for getting signals for your television so you could do one of two things: watch your favorite television show, or sit on the couch while exercising your digits on the remote control and complaining about how nothing was on and how you were so bored. [Full Disclosure: I actually have never owned a television in my life, so logically, have never been a guardian of one of these dish things. I prefer to watch movies on my iPad and then drop in on my head when I fall asleep 15 minutes into the film and watch my Steelers play at a bar where I don’t have to clean up the mess I make when I knock over my beer when jumping up to whip my Terrible Towel around on 4th and 1. However, I am from West Virginia, where the abandoned satellite dish is the state flower. Apparently even Google’s Alexa knows that joke. Actually, it’s the Rhododendron, which smells much better than the abandoned satellite dish, but I’m afraid the satellite dish may be more prolific. In fact, there were over 2 million of the big old guys in Rural America in the 1980s.]
The increasing obsolescence of the Satellite Dish, both the monstrous older versions and the smaller round barnacle type, creates quite a problem with waste. Technically, when you sign up for one of these television services that require this exterior accessory, the dish is property of the satellite provider company. Unfortunately, when you cancel or upgrade your service, mysteriously, the wonderful, now useless, accessory becomes yours to deal with. The circuit boards contain lead, which is quite bad for the environment, so throwing them out with your household garbage is banned in 17 states (according to this NTY article). In response to this, there have been dish disposal companies popping up. They charge anywhere from $99-$399 to dispose of that dish. It’s funny that just a few years before, you were anxiously waiting at home on a Tuesday for your install appointment that was scheduled for sometime between 12 and 4. There’s got to be a better way. Why not reuse the dish?
A solar water company in Pennsylvania repurposed three large old satellite dishes into solar collectors. Through the heat collected, these solar collectors essentially distill the toxic water left over from fracking, separating it into clean, distilled water and solid salts. This technology is also being developed to provide clean drinking water to developing countries.
Imgur user, Josh Zastrow, posted a how-to for combining a HDTV antenna with an antiquated dish to increase the free HDTV signal. He already had the coaxial cable run into his home from his old dish, and according to his images, he can now watch Ellen clearly and at 100% signal all the time.
This next one is kind of, um, redneck. But, I’ve included it because I think it provides a very practical, inexpensive solution to a big problem for a lot of folks. You don’t have to get very far outside of Boulder to the west before you run out of cell phone signal. In fact, most people who live in the mountains have a land line. What’s a land line? It’s an old-fashioned wall-mounted something your parents and grandparents used to use, kind of like a more reliable tin can telephone. If you still had your satellite dish hooked up, you could probably see some of these land lines in use on the Turner Classic Movie channel. How rad would it be though if you didn’t need your land line because you could reuse an old satellite dish to capture phone signal?
I know, it’s got duct tape on it, and it’s not very beautiful. And yes, the phone that may be taped to the satellite dish does look like one of those Motorola Razr flip phones that were all the rage when I was in high school. But, it’s technology that still works! As this how-to explains, you could make a very nice little pouch to slide your phone into, and use a bluetooth headset so that you don’t have to put your head in between the dish and your phone (because THAT sounds like a great idea). Maybe you could hide the dish in a sweet 3-D art piece. Or a giant elephant statue. The creative solutions to the design dilemma of this one seem pretty endless.
This is one of those honkin’ big ones from back in the day. But look at the gazebo they made! There’s a how-to in case you have an old dish and not enough to do this weekend.
This gazebo is a little classier, and is complete with beautiful plantings and a fence made of old bedsprings for beans and other climbing plants to grow up. The full collection of images is pretty cool!
(from Flea Market Gardening)
This next upcycled satellite dish structure would have fit into Chelsea’s chicken coop blog post. These chickens look like they have it made in the shade. Literally.
(from Cottage Hill)
Those are all nifty in their own right (mostly from the reuse perspective), but this one is verging on actually being a cool design, with a few tweaks. You almost don’t realize it’s a recycled satellite dish!
(from Texas Coop Power)
One more shade structure–this one is from right around here! Tom Cross is a tattoo artist as well as a regular artist (is there such a thing?) in Broomfield. He repurposed and painted this array of satellite dishes, ranging from 6-12 feet in diameter. Rumor has it that his shop, Smokey Banana Tattoo, is also in a repurposed vintage Sinclair Gas Station.
(from Tom Cross Galleries)
OTHER REUSE POSSIBILITIES
There’s a plethora of additional things that can be created from old satellite dishes, both big and small. Here’s where things get really fun.
It’s a huge ivy mushroom! I have to imagine this thing almost transports you to the pages of Alice in Wonderland.
Castor Design, the interior designer of Parts and Labour, saw a great opportunity to reuse a satellite dish as glam lighting element in the lobby of the Toronto restaurant. Now that is a well-disguised dish!
Another awesome lighting piece was crafted from seven different small satellite dishes. Designed by a Croatian-based design firm, it kinda makes you wonder if there’s any spy mojo left over in those dishes from the Soviet era–maybe conversations in that conference room aren’t so private after all…
(from Bruketa&Žinić OM)
I know, you’ve always wanted a Captain America shield. Doesn’t everyone? But where can you get one? Tear your neighbor’s old dish of the side of the house (you’ve already reused your own, right?) and head to Home Depot to get some JB Weld, paint, bondo, epoxy, 220 grit sandpaper, etc. and make your dreams come true.
In case you’re a goldfish breeder, it seems that old dishes can be useful for that hobby as well. Mike from Italy repurposed this one to raise baby goldfish in.
If you like birds more than fish and you have a few other odds and ends lying around from an old tile job, you could make a tree-mounted bird bath. Lots of people seem to do this with their smaller dishes; you may even be able to find one that’s already been transformed in a thrift store.
This collection wouldn’t be complete without some really cool art piece. This one in Germany captured my attention because it involved an entire community. The brainchild of Daniel Knipping, Inside Out began with 79 of the residents of the building, and then more joined up as they saw how cool the project was (isn’t that what always happens?). As the satellite dish is all about receiving information for its users to see, Daniel’s idea was to broadcast an image on the dishes, something that the users would want others to see. What a great public art project!
(from Daniel Knipping)
THANKS FOR READING
Melissa McGinley, Graphic Designer / Marketing Manager
8 March 2017
I am the signage and graphic designer for WORKSHOP8, I just finished recording an album with my band 300 Days, am building my own small house, went on an awesome cross-country ski hut trip last month, just brewed a 5 gallon batch of Chai Brown beer, and am training to trail run a half marathon up a mountain. In my research for this blog post, I also found a how-to on creating a solar cooker from an old satellite dish (the pictures were crappy or I’d have included that as well). I’m wondering if you could use that to brew beer… I am also the one who brought you the blog post on composting toilets.