For the last three years, Shirley Cavanagh has been collecting recyclables with her Genie in a Bottle Project. She ensures everything collected is properly recycled, and then donates the proceeds to community groups and charities in the Greater Montreal and Haut-Saint-Laurent areas. She has been doing much of this, along with an exceptional team of volunteers, in her spare time using her own car.
“We need to purchase a commercial vehicle,” says Cavanagh, while suggesting the size of the demand now exceeds the capacity of her car. “We are just trying to keep up with the opportunities,” she explains, noting they are presently turning down requests from individuals, restaurants, and municipalities that want to become involved with the project.
Cavanagh launched a GoFundMe campaign at the end of October to raise funds for a new transit van. She is hoping the upswelling of support that has embraced her project so far will translate into a successful fundraising campaign, so she can focus her energy on donating the proceeds back to the community.
Cavanagh says she never expected the project to take off as it has. So far, it has diverted over 220,150 glass bottles and 330,000 aluminium cans from landfills. Over $56,000 has been raised and distributed between more than 20 different charities in the process. “We are happy with that,” she says, while admitting she is also disappointed in the amount of money that governments and municipalities are spending on recycling programs without getting anything concrete out of the investment.
“The Valley is so small and look at how much we have been able to accomplish without any funding,” she says. “The possibilities are there,” she adds, suggesting the project can only get bigger.
For this to happen, Cavanagh says they need more volunteers: some to work behind the scenes, or fabricate boxes from pallets to hold recyclables, or transport materials to the recyclers. She is also looking for artistic types to help with creative projects using recyclable materials.
She says those who would like to contribute recyclables can also help by sorting their donations before bringing them to a depot. “It makes our life a little bit easier,” she laughs, before confirming it saves volunteers a great deal of time.
The GoFundMe is now live and can be accessed online by searching for “Your chance to change a life” on the gofundme.com website. “If people like the story, it is $5 at a time,” says Cavanagh, noting every donation will help the project continue.