by 'Becca Stallings
Looney Labs Recycling Rabbits collected a record-breaking 2,331 beverage containers at this year's Origins convention in Columbus, Ohio.
The 1,664 plastic bottles, 711 aluminum cans, and 107 glass bottles were individually rinsed and crushed (well, we didn't crush the glass—except for that one disastrous Snapple bottle…) by hardworking Rabbits and about a dozen other Origins attendees who volunteered their time.
The bottles and cans were then delivered to the Columbus city recycling program with the help of Lillian and her dad's van.
GAMA, the organization that runs Origins, was very supportive of our program and paid for my con badge.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to light a 100-watt lightbulb for 20 hours, and recycling one glass bottle saves enough to light it for 4 hours, compared to making those containers from new raw materials. This means that Looney Labs saved enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for almost two years.
EPA also says that plastic bottles, which can't be recycled into new bottles, can be spun into fiberfill stuffing, and 5 two-liter bottles make enough to stuff an adult-sized ski jacket. Most of the bottles we collected were 20-ounce size, which is less plastic than a two-liter…let's say 8 20-ouncers are equivalent to 5 two-liters. Looney Labs saved enough plastic to stuff 208 ski jackets.
Also, remember that plastic is made from oil—every bottle recycled means a little less oil imported from the Middle East, and that means a little less money in the pockets of terrorists. We also kept these bottles from going into a landfill, where they would take about a million years to disintegrate, according to EPA.
Last year, we had asked the convention center to provide 5 bins for our recycling program but got only 4, so this year we asked for 10. We still got 4! However, instead of the big clunky plastic bins they gave us last year, these were cardboard boxes with open tops, whose kindred were serving as extra trash cans around the con.
We distinguished our bins by wrapping them in tie-dye fabric and making cardboard lids with a round hole for bottles and cans. This new style of lid, affixed with tape to the back corners of the bin such that the edge of the bin-lining bag could be tucked up under the back edge of the lid, created a flip-top effect that made bag removal easy. The fact that identical bins were readily available meant that we could snag as many as we needed.
The only thing limiting bin deployment was that I had only 6 pieces of tie-dye fabric. (I had done some shopping before the con but hadn't found as much as I wanted.) I got the first 6 bins started on Thursday and set out in search of more tie-dye on Friday. I remembered that, on previous visits to Columbus, I'd seen some hippie-type stores on High Street north of the convention center, but I wasn't at all sure that I could find them or that they'd have reasonable prices.
I was walking along worrying about this when I glanced down a side street and saw tents filled with tie-dye!! It happened to be the weekend of the Community Festival, and that street and the adjacent park were packed with tents selling tie-dye and broccoli-burgers and other hippie items!
Amazed by my good fortune, I spent $85 on tie-dye in about 10 minutes, blathered ecstatically at the tent proprietors and left them dazed in a shower of Looney Labs Micro-catalogs. I bought wrap-around skirts, which are less expensive than bedspreads and exactly the right size to cover 3 sides of those cardboard bins, and I'd been thinking it was about time I got some new skirts anyway. Returning to the con, I enlisted Adam's help in creating and deploying 2 new bins—in the coffee-shop area and in Hall E.
The following morning, when I went around emptying all the bins, I found that the one in Hall E had disappeared! I spoke to the people running the gaming there, and one of them called Facilities Management on his walkie-talkie and confirmed that the cleaning staff were under strict orders not to mess with the recycling bins, so I could only conclude that the bin had been tragically kidnapped. I wandered the behind-the-scenes areas but did not find its mangled corpse.
My best guess is that one of the cleaning workers missed the meeting where they got the strict orders and thought that my poor bin was trash. Fortunately, this did not happen again. One bin was injured in the line of duty but made a full recovery. We ultimately had 9 bins, all of which collected plenty of recyclables.
Exhibitors and attendees alike were very pleased to be able to participate in a recycling program. I got lots of praise for it, and people were very good about not putting trash in the bins. Because the exhibitors were mostly unable to leave their booths to bring recyclables to our booth, I made the rounds of the hall around closing time every evening and asked for their recyclables.
By Friday, Armorcast and Rolled Bones had bags hanging on their booths trying to collect recyclables from passersby, and several other companies had established a collection area for their own staff's bottles and cans.
Eventually it occurred to me to ask the most enthusiastic exhibitors if they'd be interested in hosting one of our bins in their booth at future cons. Twelve of them said yes, and WizKids had such a spacious booth that they were able to host a bin right away.
People kept asking me if Looney Labs would be recycling at GenCon. My initial answer was no—the Looneys might have one bin in their booth, but since I never go to GenCon we can't provide con-wide recycling there. People's reaction to this was that I should go! It's only a few weeks away, so it's difficult to make arrangements now, but Looney Labs and I are considering it….