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Looney Labs uses new tactics to encourage recycling

by 'Becca Stallings

After three years of running a volunteer program to collect and recycle beverage containers at the Origins convention, Looney Labs staff and volunteers felt it was time to get the convention center and the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) to hire a professional recycling contractor. This is a good idea for several reasons: Professionals have the staff and labor-saving machinery to process a larger volume of containers, Origins exhibitors and attendees have demonstrated willingness to take advantage of this service, recycling provides good jobs for blue-collar workers, and conserving resources and reducing trash is just the right thing to do!

We had been discussing the subject with GAMA ever since our first recycling project in 2001, and this year they did make an attempt to set up recycling service. However, by the time they had all the price information, they didn't have any budget to spare. We wanted to help motivate them to make recycling more of a priority for Origins 2005.

Three things helped to shape our new approach. One was the idea of giving GAMA a clear idea of just how many exhibitors and attendees felt strongly about recycling. Another was that if we continued to run the most thorough recycling program we possibly could, we risked giving GAMA the impression that we would do it (for free!) forever, thus removing their motivation to find an alternative. The third was that much of the energy I'd used for running the recycling program in past years was diverted to growing a baby--I was 12 weeks pregnant at the time of the con.

Our main focus this year was a petition explaining why we want GAMA to arrange recycling service for Origins 2005. We had pages of it in the Looney Labs booth, in the Lab where we run our tournaments and open gaming, in the booths of other companies who wanted to help, and in my hands as I walked around the exhibit hall. 536 people signed! Even more people contacted Looney Labs after the con, saying they hadn't heard about the petition until later but wanted to express their support. The best way to do that is to contact GAMA directly.

To conserve my energy for promoting the petition, we scaled back our recycling bins to two, in the booth and the Lab. I also carried a bag with me to collect recyclables as I made my rounds of the hall. Many people who'd attended in previous years were disappointed that we didn't have more bins, but they went out of their way to bring bottles and cans to us. Our two bins managed to collect over a thousand containers: 676 plastic bottles, 322 aluminum cans, and 47 glass bottles. Volunteers helped me rinse, crush, and count the containers. At the end of the con, I dropped them off at the Columbus city recycling program.

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 6,628 hours--about as much time as will elapse between my baby's conception and birth!

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 84 ski jackets! We also kept these bottles from going into a landfill, where they would take about a million years to disintegrate, according to EPA.

We hope that our petition will convince GAMA to provide recycling bins all around the building at Origins 2005! Thanks to all the volunteers who helped make this year's recycling effort a success: Ben Haley, Kat Dutton, Joe Valdez, Amy LoCurto, Meg Gandy, Nicole Lewandowski, Steve Hoffman, Marlene Bruce, Sonya Bleakley, Katie Boffa, Kyle Perkins, Cole Perkins, Andrew Plotkin, Daniel Efran, Aaron MacMaster, and all of you working in the booth and Lab who asked people to sign the petition. Thanks also to everyone who put a can or bottle in the recycling bin instead of in the trash--every single one makes a difference!

Copyright ©1999-2007 by Becca Stallings.
Last update: 2007-07-22
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