Guerrilla Recycling for a Better Campus

A Gorilla in a black hoodie gets ready to do some recycling with a group of other gorillas in the background

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when people hear the term “Recyclemania?” Well, if they’re anything like me, most people think of that elevated and energetic sense of arousal one gets when separating paper and plastics. As it turns out, Recyclemania is actually an international recycling competition. And for the University of Ottawa, it’s a yearly waste-reduction campaign, aimed at shedding light on the necessity of sustainability, recycling, and responsible forms of waste management.
So it turns out I’m not a doctor of recycling. Who knew?

This year’s RecycleMania included a Guerilla Recycling event, which occurred each Thursday night for the month of March. It’s all about black hoodies, latex gloves, and getting elbow-deep in other people’s trash. While part of that may not sound appealing to most of you (really?), the whole process is much more rewarding than it sounds, and that’s not even considering all the loose change to be found at the bottom of the compost bin.

While not involving actual gorillas per se, Guerilla Recycling asks it’s participants to walk around campus, find trash bins, and then properly sort its contents into various categories; paper, plastic, glass, compost, and garbage. My two excursions have lasted about two hours each, which is optimal recycling time I think.

As it turns out, the students at the University of Ottawa generally don’t throw out very exciting things. You definitely have your classics - empty coffee cups, banana peels, milk cartons and half-eaten baked goods – but there are few rare finds to be found. As a novice to the Guerilla Recycling game, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I definitely thought I would be surprised and sufficiently grossed out more than a few times. Regretfully, this wasn’t the case. Step up your game, people!

Guerilla Recycling is pretty relaxed, actually. And surprisingly pretty fun. The people you go out with are friendly and offer entertaining stories of dumpster diving and urban foraging. Would-be-trash-dumpers even treat you with reverence and respect, checking with you to make sure that their empty fruit cups are properly recycled and placed in the appropriate bin (the answer is plastic, in case you were wondering).

Scheduled this year between February 3rd to March 30th, RecycleMania only lasts two months. However, the skills taught and the lessons learned can be used by any one of us every day of the year. There's more to recycling than just owning a blue bin, and Guerrilla Recycling helped teach me that.

~ vance - guest blogger
- photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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