Bottling up waste in WR

Allison Leonard


Eric Rumble is living in a sea of water bottles. The Alternatives Journal Editor in Chief and Night\Shift organizer has spent the past few months collecting the community’s empty plastic vessels, in hopes of sculpting five large-scale sea creatures to be suspended in Kitchener locations by Nov. 1.

“I was inspired by a project I heard about from New York, where a group made a pavilion of 45,000 water bottles – the number of bottles New Yorkers go through in an hour,” says Rumble.

Instead of a pavilion, Night\Shift will show case five enormous, bottle-formed marine creatures – a stingray, a whale, a turtle, a jellyfish and an octopus – all to be hosted at Kitchener City Hall. The animation, titled Creatures of the Gyre is intended to generate discussion on the environmental consequences of single-use water bottles.

“My mom sent me the idea a week before Night\Shift last year, it’s time to share a message about a horrible piece of behavior that’s relevant locally.”

Water bottle use in Canada faces astounding figures. Though no data is available specifically for Waterloo Region, Agriculture Canada reports that bottled water makes up 10.6 per cent of Canada’s liquid consumption.

“We’d really like people to question their behavior and habits regarding environmentally sustainable practices,” says Cailin Hillier, collaborator, project lead and a graduate student representing the University of Waterloo’s Water Institute. Hillier organized a smaller-scale version of the project last year in partnership with Students of the Water Institute – Graduate Section (SWIGS). The product, a water bottle fish, is now displayed at the Erb St. Landfill Recycle Centre. Rumble and Hillier intend to collect 16,000 bottles, the number required for the current blueprints. The sculptures will be a reflection of the community in more ways than one – those who chucked the plastic vessels will be called upon to donate, wash and finally, assemble the recycled sea creatures. Local public schools and the orientation week programming at the Region’s post-secondary institutions are integral in the bottle collection and assembly.

The massive marine designs are making waves in changing the narrative of more than water bottle use, but of Night\Shift itself.

“The idea worked within the mandate of Alternatives Journal. It’s remixing public space with a strong environmental idea in mind,” says Rumble. “People are more inclined to hold onto a message if it’s an idea that pleases or shocks them, like giant bottle sculptures.”

Tones of social justice, critical thinking and challenge will be found scattered through Night\Shift’s downtown Kitchener locations, says Rumble.

“Some of the pieces of programming do take on thorny issues that push people emotionally a little bit, while still having fun during the night. There are more opportunities for reflection.”