U of T Trash Team

Increasing Waste Literacy to Fight Plastic Pollution

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Who we Are

The U of T Trash Team is a science-based community outreach organization made up of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, researchers, local volunteers and staff all working together with a common goal to increase waste literacy in our community while reducing plastic pollution in our ecosystems. We were founded in 2017 in collaboration with the Rochman Lab, part of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto.

2021 – 2022 Minister’s Award of Excellence in the category of Everyday Heroes.

2022 U of T Sustainable Action Award recipient, recognizing contributions to sustainability at the University of Toronto and in the community.

Our Mission

We aim to connect people and increase literacy concerning material consumption and waste with fun, creative and practical actions. We use education, community outreach and solutions-based research to deliver evidence-based solutions to decrease solid waste and promote a circular economy.

Our Vision

We envision a fun and engaged waste-literate community actively working to protect people, wildlife and the planet through the intersection of science, policy, community engagement and innovation that promote waste reduction.

Our Values

We are team-oriented, fun, positive, creative, inclusive, respectful, supportive and non-judgmental.

In our community, everyone is treated as an equal and with respect.

How we Work

Our local projects use research to inform policy and management, and education and community outreach to increase waste literacy, engage the public and implement effective solutions. 

Solutions-based Research

Data-driven projects to help inform solutions.


Elementary classroom programs and ongoing public education, for all ages.

Community Outreach

A range of programs including cleanups and presentations throughout the year.

Our Theory of Change

Scientific evidence informs our work, and through our three connected workstreams (solutions-based research, community outreach and education) we work locally and build collaborations globally to reduce plastic pollution. We could not do this work without the energy of our volunteers, who make it possible to achieve our goals related to policy, healthy ecosystems and community engagement. 

Designed and illustrated by Madeleine Milne, an active member and researcher with the U of T Trash Team
who loves to explore the intersections of science and art.

Our Team in Action


Citizens Engaged


Microplastics Diverted


Classrooms Visited


Raccoon Appreciation

Meet the Team

Founding Members and Program Leads

Chelsea Rochman
Head of Operations and the Program Lead of Scientific Programming and Application

Chelsea has been researching the sources, sinks and ecological implications of plastic debris for more than a decade. In addition to research, Chelsea works to translate science beyond academia. For example, she presented her work to the United Nations General Assembly and at the US State Department. Moreover, she has served as an expert witness for both the Canadian and United States government.

Susan Debreceni
Program Lead of Volunteer Engagement and Community Programs

Rafaela Gutierrez
Program Lead of Social Science and Educational Programs

Rafaela received her PhD in Science and Technology Policy from the Institute of Geosciences, UNICAMP, Brazil. Rafaela Gutierrez is a social scientist with expertise in waste policy. She has a keen interest in up- and downstream processes for plastic recycling. Over the past decade, she has studied, advocated and worked with low-income communities in Brazil focusing on how to improve the socio-productive integration of waste pickers into formal recycling streams.


Hannah De Frond
International Trash Trap Network Coordinator

Hannah works in collaboration with the University of Toronto Trash Team and the Ocean Conservancy to expand the International Trash Trap Network, and to document the collective impact of installing trash capture devices around the world. She has always had a keen interest in problem solving and solutions-based research and received her MSc in Marine Environmental Management from the University of York, UK. Previously, Hannah was a researcher and laboratory technician at the University of Toronto where her work focused on testing and improving methods used to analyze microplastics in the laboratory. 

Emily Chudnovsky
Arts and Visual Communications Specialist

Emily holds a Master of Fine Art from the Glasgow School of Art and an undergraduate combined Honours degree from the University of King’s College in Contemporary Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies. In Emily’s artistic practice she uses waste-materials to build sculpture-based public installations. Originally from Toronto, Emily spent the last several years living and making artwork in Dawson City, Yukon, with interspersed adventures to many places around the world.

Our Volunteers

With a small support staff, our volunteers fuel the organization with new ideas, positive energy, passion and talent. They are empowered to co-create meaningful experiences and programs on waste literacy. Our team is made up of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, early-career researchers, and members from outside the U of T community. These volunteers are predominantly young adults, gaining experience and expertise to be the next leaders in our environmental movement.

Previous staff

Cassandra Sherlock – Community Outreach and Research Specialist