Category: Blog

Why I love being a reclaimer

Twice a year, CUCCR conducts its reclaimathon: a period at the end of each semester where usable materials are collected from around campus. Anyone can participate, be it as a donor, advocate, or, most adventurous of all… as a reclaimer!

How does it work?

Reclaimers choose a location on campus to focus on, then set up a bin for the community to leave donations in. CUCCR provides turquoise-painted bins in varying shapes and sizes, but even a well-labeled cardboard box will do.

Day 1 of Reclaimathon
Day 1 of Reclaimathon

In a perfect world, everyone at Concordia would know about CUCCR’s services. They’d know what CUCCR looks for in its intake, and reclaimer bins would overflow with quality materials in the final weeks of school. Maybe someday we’ll get there. Until then, the role of the reclaimer is two-fold. First and foremost, reclaimers look after their bin — keeping it tidy, sorting out non-reusable materials, and carting contents to CUCCR when stuff starts to overaccumulate. Monitoring is only half the fun, however. The real action lies in the hunt.

You want the good stuff? You gotta go out and get it.

Print media
Print media’s recycling bins are a goldmine for scrap paper and collage materials.

An excuse to explore

As a design student, I spend most of my time between the 5th and 7th floors of EV. When I do end up in different departments, it’s usually for a specific reason — a workshop, appointment, event, etc. But Concordia is a massive school, with hidden gems waiting to be unearthed from countless secret spaces. (Buried deep in a labyrinth of subterranean storage cages, CUCCR is a perfect example!) I love the reclaimathon because it gives me an excuse to open doors and poke my head around parts of the school I normally have no business in.

SenseLab
Last week while scouring the 9th floor of EV, I discovered the SenseLab: a vibrant, whimsical playhouse of art, plants and colourful curiosities loosely defined as “a laboratory for thought in motion.” Walking in on an event that saw participants perched around the room on pillows or hammocks, I was sent off with a handful of purple yarn and half a mind to question if I hadn’t imagined the whole thing.

Chloë Lalonde also volunteers at CUCCR. Having participated in the reclaimathon last year, she felt it gave her an opportunity to see another side of the school. “I really enjoyed seeing the ‘behind the scenes’ of unfamiliar departments and the interesting things left behind, especially in fibres.”

Teach others to “see the potential”

It’s the process of looking past an object’s assigned purpose in order to imagine future new uses, and frequenters of CUCCR know it well. On a grander scale, it’s one of CUCCR’s most valuable contributions to the community: an opportunity to question conventions; an exercise in thinking outside the box. Beyond simply cutting costs of production, “seeing the potential” will sharpen your mind to possibilities unseen by the masses. (Just be careful not to end up like me — creeping out each new roommate with the ever-growing pile of random crap in my room.)

As a reclaimer, the line between trash and treasure is yours to draw. In the beginning, the people you meet on your journey will probably need a fresh set of eyes to identify value in things they’re accustomed to throwing away, so don’t be afraid to push and prod a little. Soon enough they’ll be handing you all sorts of weird objects, animated at the prospect of participating in the unique search-and-rescue that is the reclaimathon.

Photography Studio
I’d never been inside this softly-lit photography studio before now. Inside, a fellow reclaimer and I met a man cutting up large-format prints of starry night skies. At first he was reluctant to believe he had anything to offer us, but after a bit of nudging, he showed us to a bin of shiny photo paper offcuts, some of which were quite large. We took the biggest pieces we could find and started for the door, where he stopped us with a tall, skinny box. “To transport the paper,” he explained.

For those sensitive to the amount of waste generated in material-heavy practices, saving things from landfill can also have a therapeutic effect. Yannick Victor, CUCCR volunteer and two-time reclaimer, adds, “For me being a reclaimer is really all about completing the circle and continuing the life cycle of the material, specifically for the sculpture area. After using and seeing so much material be used and transformed throughout the year in the sculpture studios, it was almost cathartic to go back and reclaim what was used.”

First dibs on the haul

The reclaimathon is when CUCCR gets in most of its stock for the following months, so naturally, tons of cool stuff streams in at once. Reclaimers have access to this fresh selection before anyone else.

“Having first pick is great,” says Chloë. “I stocked the summer camp I worked last year with stuff I reclaimed.”

Acetate
This year’s top prize: two huge rolls of acetate! My favourite material for making stencils.

Co-curricular credits

As an added bonus, reclaimers can claim Sustainability Ambassador credits on their co-curricular record. These types of credits appear alongside your transcript, helping you to stand out when applying for academic opportunities.

Warm fuzzy-feelies for helping out your favourite creative reuse center

A motivated base of reuse-enthusiasts is essential to CUCCR’s mission of diverting as much waste from landfill and saving as much money for the community as possible. There’s a near-endless amount of stuff destined for the dump by the end of each term — certainly more than CUCCR’s limited staff capacity can handle on its own. Anyone who’s ever left the depot with an armful of materials and a feeling of gratified awe at the important work CUCCR does should consider taking part in the reclaimathon as a way of returning the favor to the organization that keeps on giving.

Bring a friend
When you do, bring a friend! The reclaimathon is twice as fun in pairs.

To know more, visit the Reclaimer page!