A sculptural installation by the Team at Yonge Eglinton Centre

Can you visualize all of the waste you generate over a month? If you answered “no”, you’re not alone. It’s a difficult task. Once garbage moves from your hand to a waste bin, it’s out of sight, out of mind for most of us.

The Team at Yonge Eglinton Centre wants to change that by making the “invisible” visible again with its sculptural installation, “The Awakening”.

With inner corridors and welcoming spaces lined with boutiques, shops, and restaurants, the Yonge Eglinton Centre is a building of over 1.412 million sq. feet servicing over 20,000 daily average visits. Serving the Yonge-Eglinton, “Midtown” community as a lifestyle shopping centre in Toronto, Ontario, the shopping centre is committed to making Torontonians’ lives more enjoyable – and sustainable. The building is BOMA Best Certified, whose digital signage operates on 100% renewable electricity, and whose roof is home to a beehive installation that provides refuge to bees as well as a community vegetable garden. These sustainable operational choices make an impact while going largely unnoticed by the day-to-day patron.

The Awakening, a huge waste-based sculpture, hangs from the ceiling in a mall's atrium. Resembling a chandelier, the "crystals" are made with discarded single-use cups made to look bronze.

What is needed to drive a cultural shift toward sustainability and the circular economy? The first step is public awareness and education.

Inspired to make the problem visible again and to incentivize consumers to make more sustainable choices, the Team at Yonge Eglinton Centre produced a large waste-based hanging installation using over 12,000 discarded single-use beverage containers sourced from the building’s waste stream (note: less than 5% of the 12,240 were new cups in order to supplement the broken and soggy ones to ensure that they are safe for installation). The team collected this “source material” for only a month, highlighting the sheer volume of waste that could have been avoided by using reusable beverage containers.

Below, signs explain the purpose of the installation and provide incentives for viewers to take action. 

“This art installation, created by the Team at Yonge Eglinton Centre, portrays the impact of the single-use materials we use on a daily basis. The chandelier is created using 12,240 upcycled disposable cups recovered from the Yonge Eglinton Centre’s waste stream over a 30 day period,” the sign reads. “If nothing changes with our current reliance on single-use materials, in the next 25 years we will throw out roughly 3.7 million disposable cups onsite. Laid out, this number of cups would cover the block of Yonge Street, Orchard View Boulevard, Duplex Avenue, and Eglinton Avenue West over 1.5 times!”

“If we eliminated the use of disposable cups at Yonge Eglinton Centre, the amount of cups saved per year would equal the height of 39 CN Towers, 2.9 times the distance between Lake Ontario and Yonge and Eglinton, or the length of 352 hockey rinks!”

What initiated the project? Just a thought, according to the team. The General Manager, Allan Aquino, came to the team one day with the idea and a simple whiteboard sketch. It took most of a month and about 40 individuals exclusively from the property itself to transform the waste into the sculpture and to install it.

The sculpture isn’t the only way the team—and the building’s tenants, local business owners—are trying to make a difference. Customers can bring a reusable beverage container to several participating businesses for a 10¢ discount, which is here to stay. To drive education, a trivia contest with a cash prize was also promoted.

While October may be over, Circular Economy Month continues as a year-long campaign, celebrating the shift to the circular economy in Canada. Do you or your organization know of projects or people making a difference? Send a message to us at info@circulareconomymonth.ca!

For inquiries about The Awakening, please contact CustomerServiceYEC@riocan.com.

Pictured: The Awakening, a large sculpture made out of waste materials, hangs above the team that created it.