One tooth at a time, Raymond Rawls is putting the finishing touches on his latest masterpiece — a giant alligator made entirely from repurposed trash.
The gator is completely pedal-powered, and will make its way down University Avenue during the UF’s homecoming parade Friday afternoon.
“Not only is it moving down the street, but the arms will be moving; the head will be chomping,” Rawls said. “We try to get a lot of movement involved and try to get people to get excited about it.”
For the past two years, the Alachua County Office of Waste Alternatives has been working with local artists to create carbon-neutral floats for the University of Florida’s annual homecoming parade.
Alachua County produces 500 to 700 tons of waste every day, Waste Alternatives spokeswoman Fae Nageon de Lestang.
She said it’s inspiring to see everyday trash used to create art the whole community can enjoy.
“In the big scheme of things, it’s not that much,” Nageon de Lestang said. “But the message it sends is that we can reuse our waste, and the things we throw away can be repurposed before they’re truly garbage.”
This is the second year Rawls and his wife, Lorraine Duerden, have created an environmentally friendly parade float. Last year they crafted a carbon-neutral fish float.
Rawls used salvaged bike parts, scrap metal and leftover rolls of paper from The Gainesville Sun to create the base of the manually operated gator float. He used paper mache for the coating and detail and fastened levers inside the float for the effects.
“With any gator, you’ve got to have the chomp,” he said.
Rawls said the project shows that waste can often be reused before becoming trash. He hopes to create one new carbon-neutral homecoming float every year.
He said he hopes his work with repurposed trash will inspire more environmentally friendly floats in the future.
“Next year, we’re not really sure (what the float will be) because it’s all salvaged material. You’re never really sure what you’re going to get,” he said. “It lends itself to being a bit of a free form and you eventually start to narrow down your idea.”