If It Exists, You Probably Can Recycle It

The University of Ottawa has a robust recycling program. With a little effort, everything can be recycled, even a camping chair brought to Jon by one of his friends.

I don't mean to get all existential on you or anything, I just want you to understand this very simple and true fact. Everything can be recycled. There is no such thing as garbage.... it is simply a social construct created by people in order to classify things that are of no use to us.

Case in point, a bag of mouldy old apples... not at the top of my list of things I want to eat. Of course if I was a pig farmer that might make some decent feed for the hogs, or if I was looking for some good compost in my garden I probably wouldn't much mind a whole bag. So they weren't really garbage, they just gross you out.

Or how about this, one day your grandma comes to you and gives you some of those nice sweaters she likes to knit. Only problem is that this year she was super productive and she gives you 125 of these sweaters. WTF, you can't use all these sweaters; in fact, you don't even have enough room in your closet for all of them. In a pinch you might toss some of them out. But they aren't really garbage are they? They just aren't useful to you.

Well I think that the the biggest complaint I get is that too many things are made out of mixed materials. Like how a Pringles container has metal ends and a paper body. Or how a pair of scissors has a plastic handle and metal blades. How do you recycle these things?

Unfortunately the answer is actually very simple.... separate the components and recycle them individually. I wish I had a deeper and more profound answer for you but I don't. Everything is made out of something, so break it down and you can recycle those things individually.

I know some people will complain that some things are just too hard to separate but if you try real hard you just might find that things are easier than you might have thought. Here is a quick example. The other day my neighbour brought me her camping chair to recycle. She had torn the fabric and was going to go get a new one. She wasn't sure how to recycle it so she gave it to me. A screwdriver and a pair of scissors later... no more problem. (see below)

We are lucky that here at uOttawa we have an advanced plastics recycling program so we can recycle more plastic than your typical city can. But that aside, I think that everyone should make a little more effort to recycle " complicated " things.

~ jon - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo