Origins 2008 Recycling Report

Last year I wished this story had a happy ending.  Now it does!  The Greater Columbus Convention Center had recycling bins for cans and bottles, and for paper, set up in many parts of the building during Origins this past weekend.  I am thrilled!  Last year’s news was so discouraging, I hadn’t expected them to try again…but this has been a year of increasing greenishness in the popular culture, and apparently they realized the public might be more willing to cooperate than before.  Based on what I saw, glancing into recycling bins and the trash cans next to them, people were doing a pretty good job of sorting.

There were some flaws in the recycling arrangements, which I am mentioning here not to complain that it wasn’t perfect but to point out some considerations for any readers who may be planning to implement or improve a recycling program:

  • The bins were very subtle.  They were plain white cardboard with open tops, marked as recycling bins by small white paper signs taped to two sides.  They were hard to identify from a distance.
  • The bins did not have occlusive lids.  Lids with a round hole for cans & bottles or a rectangular slit for paper help to communicate what the bins are for and to distract people who are about to throw trash into them.
  • The two types of recycling bins were difficult to tell apart.  The edge of the liner bag, pulled down over the edges of the box, often obscured the top line of print on the sign, which said whether this was a can & bottle bin or a paper bin.  The simplest way to fix this problem would be to print the “can & bottle” signs on one color of paper and the “paper” signs on another so that a person who had identified the correct type of bin once would be able to find it at a glance thereafter.
  • Many of the bins were placed by themselves instead of next to a trash can.  That increases errors, because people with trash who see only a recycling bin tend to assume it’s a trash can, and people with recyclables who see only a trash can tend to assume there are no recycling bins available.  For best results, you want to have a can & bottle bin and a paper bin next to every trash can.  When you don’t have enough recycling bins to do that, you want to make the recycling bins very visible, with bright colors or signs above them, so that people see them and hang onto their recyclables for another 50 feet as they walk past trash cans.
  • The placement of bins around the building was uneven.  There were plenty in the central hallway and C wing, a few in the big gaming rooms, a strangely large number in the breezeway, but (as far as I saw) none in the exhibit hall or food court.  There were none in upper D wing where we had the Looney Lab, so I brought one over from upper C wing where I found two can & bottle bins standing next to each other!  On the plus side, whoever placed the bins had realized that the registration area was an important place for paper bins (because many people immediately sort through their attendee packets and discard papers they don’t want) and that the seating area near several beverage concessions and vending machines was an important place for a can & bottle bin.

I bet the convention center collected more recyclables than I ever did!  I was so grateful to see the bins and to feel like I’m not the only one who cares.  I hope to see the convention center learn from experience so that every year the recycling program gets better and better!

When I contacted Manny Magno (the convention center’s operations manager, quoted in last year’s article) to thank him for resuming recycling, he told me the building is trying to get LEED certification.  That means they’ll be working on lots of other environmental issues, not just recycling.

I also wrote to Anthony Gallela, executive director of GAMA (the organization that runs Origins), and he told me that recycling bins are something they request in their contract with the convention center.  This is something to keep in mind if you’re organizing an event: Stipulating that you want recycling bins for your event may get a venue to do recycling when it normally wouldn’t.

Origins also did a clever little reusing trick this year: They printed the ballots for the Origins Awards on extra attendee badge cards from previous years!  I was really impressed when I noticed this.  It gave the ballots a very official look because they had a full-color Origins logo along one edge, but GAMA didn’t have to spend any extra money to get that, nor did they have to buy that nice stiff paper; they just used paper they’d already ordered and printed and would otherwise have thrown away.  Also, the ballots were just the right size to tuck into our badge holders and carry around while we sought out the nominated games and decided how to vote.

Oh, and speaking of recycling, here’s some inspiration: This year’s Three Rivers Arts Festival set a goal of recycling or composting 50% of attendees’ garbage, and it wound up getting 80%!

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About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

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