The end of one era is the beginning of another

recycling centre, outside, benches, tree

This past week the University of Ottawa installed new exterior recycling bins on campus. Now I promised myself I wouldn't cry so please bare with me while I pay homage to the old bins before getting on to the new ones. I really liked the old exterior recycling bins that we had on campus. Yeah they had there short-comings; they broke really easily, they were separated bins (I'll talk about that I a minute), and quite frankly they weren't a very good design. But they also represented one of the first real risks that we took to improve recycling on campus.

Unlike any bin before it, and unlike the new bins, the old bins were transparent, you could actually see right through them. I know this doesn't seem like anything new today, considering Toronto is littered with transparent bins, but when we installed those old bins on campus, to my knowledge we were the first in Ottawa. Of course the benefit of doing this is that the transparent bin forces people to put things in the correct bin or suffer the consequences of being socially austrosized (or something like that).

 I still remember my first waste audit of the outdoor bins. The results weren't great, not by a long shot. In most outdoors bins the contamination rate was somewhere in the range of 60% to 80%. For all intents and purposes, everything was going into the garbage bin. The likely culprit was the lack of recycling bins outdoors. I hypothesized that by simply adding some outdoor bins in key locations, we would dramatically decrease contamination. I was right, we were able to get contamination down to 40%. Not great, but not that bad either.

Well today is a new day and so we have added new bins outdoors. As you can see from its picture, the new bins aren't transparent. But they are combined bins so that means that the waste and recycling options are all one right next to each. The new bins are also pretty sleek. They are all uOttawa grey and rocking the university's logo. They are also decked out with our quintessential "what you can recycle" icons.

I should also mention that the new recycling bins are made from composite recyclables. They are in fact made out of a couple of thousand recycled bottles of water (yes, the irony is not lost on me since we are a campus that banned water bottles a couple of years ago). So in the end, we now have bins made out of the stuff that was recycled in them. How's that for a paradox?

My hope is that the new bins will be a shot in the arm to our outdoor recycling problem. We have never been able to achieve the same level of recycling indoors and outdoors but I have faith. These new bins, the brainchild of our groundskeeper Alexis and our waste diversion coordinator Brigitte, we will be able to do better than we ever have before.

~jON - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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