Category: Waste (page 1 of 12)

Plastics by the Numbers

Have you ever seen numbers on plastics and wondered what they mean?  There are hundreds of different types of plastics, with different properties, making them more flexible or ridged.

The numbers 1-7 on plastics indicate what type of plastic is used in your bottle, container, or shopping bag. Here’s a quick guide to knowing what these numbers really mean.

  1. Plastics labeled with a 1 are  PETE and are typically found in food or beverage bottles and are easily recyclable. PETE is most common for single-use items.
  2. Number 2 plastic is HDPE, which is used in clean product bottles. It is considered a safe plastic, because it doesn’t break down easily and is easily recycled.
  3. Number 3 is for PVC, which is commonly used in piping and other building materials. When burned, PVC releases toxic gases into the environment and is harder to recycle because of this toxicity.
  4. Plastic bags are commonly made from LDPE, number 4, and can be recycled in bulk. You can return shopping bags to your grocery store to recycle them, but never put individual plastic shopping bags into the recycling bin.
  5. Number 5 plastic is found in straws and squeeze bottles. Some of these products can be recycled, but straws are not recyclable.
  6. Styrofoam is made from PS plastic with the number 6. Evidence has shown that these plastics leak toxins into their environment relatively easily and take millennia to degrade naturally. Number 6 plastics can be recycled if collected properly. At Tufts, the Science and Technology Center collects styrofoam in bulk for specialty recycling.
  7. The last category, number 7, is miscellaneous plastics. The attributes and recyclability of the plastics are variable.

To learn more about how recycling works watch this great video from Sci Show:

Be sure to check the numbers on the bottom of your plastics and refer to this guide to recycle your plastics correctly. Recycling is a great way to reduce our environmental footprint and a big step toward making our world more sustainable, but remember that reducing use and reusing items should always come before recycling.

Speciality Recycling and Waste

At Tufts, we have collection sites for specialty recycling from batteries to textiles to sneakers to E-Waste! It is extremely important for these products to be recycled and diverted from the waste stream to be repurposed, as this prevents toxic landfill leakage from re-entering the environment  and reduces extractive mining and processing needs both of which harm local community health.

Much of these specialty recycling items can be categorized as universal waste, which includes four general categories: batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and lamps.  All of these items are regulated by the federal government and must be disposed of in ways that meet federal standards.

To recycle batteries, we need to take some precautions. All alkaline batteries and non-lithium ion batteries must have their terminals taped with clear tape to avoid a potential fire hazard during transportation. Lithium-ion batteries should be collected in a separate bin. There are blue and white bins around campus where you can drop off your old batteries. Batteries are considered regulated waste and must be diverted from the regular waste stream to follow federal regulations.

Tufts also has special yellow toters around campus for composting, a great way to reduce the amount of waste we produce. According to the EPA, almost a quarter of municipal waste in landfills is food waste, which easily could be avoided through composting. We even have tips for making composting in your dorm and off-campus apartment easy and intuitive.

Recently, Tufts implemented a textile-recycling program on campus, with four locations listed on the Tufts Eco-Map. In these bins, you can drop off any and all used textiles, including clothes, towels, bedding, even tennis shoes. These items will either be sold as is or repurposed and sold as new products. Specialty recycling is a great way to get items that would typically be thrown away out of landfills.

Remember to:

E-Waste

E-waste stands for electronic waste: all electronic products that we no longer use either because they no longer work or the technology is outdated. This includes laptops, desktop computers and monitors, cell phones, televisions, printers and fax machines, and all the smaller parts that come with them. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 60 million metric tons of e-waste enter US landfills each year, leaking harmful chemicals and making up 70% of the toxic waste in these landfills.

Fortunately, we can recycle these products instead of throwing them into landfills. They all contain useful resources, including glass, metals, plastics, and various minerals, that can be reused and diverted from the waste stream. Using the Tufts Eco-Map, you can locate collection sites to drop off your e-waste to make sure you are recycling it in a safe, effective way for both people and the environment. For more information about how to properly dispose of your e-waste visit the Tufts Facilities site.

Find more information about E-Waste from these informative articles:

China’s National Sword

via GIPHY

Recycling is complicated. Most people see their recyclables taken off of their curbs each week and think that it’s the end of the process, but really it is just the beginning:

  1. From there, the recyclables are taken to a recycling sorting center, where all of the plastics, papers, and metals are sorted and packaged together with like materials.
  2. Then the recyclables are sold to manufacturers domestically and internationally on a commodities market.

The above video shows how mixed recycling is sorted.

The Changing Recycling Market in China

Some recyclables end up in China since it is the largest importer of recyclables from around the world. China uses these raw materials to drive their manufacturing based economy. The U.S.—China recycling relationship began when China sent over cargo ships full of exports to the U.S. and instead of sending those ships back to China empty, the U.S. began sending back discarded recyclables.

Beginning in 2013, China began regulating what recyclables were coming into the country, because historically most of the recycled materials that were sent to China were unsorted, contaminated with non-recyclable materials, and contained hazardous waste. The 2013 policy was known as the Green Fence and random inspections of shipments of recyclables began. The country began to reject shipments if they were contaminated, thus the total amount of recycled material that China receives has declined since 2013. The newest change to recycling policy is the National Sword. In this new policy, the Chinese government has banned 24 materials and has increased the rigor of the inspections.

How does this impact Tufts?

Now trash goes in blue bags and recyclable in clear bags!

Because of the National Sword, Tufts can no longer use blue bags in the recycling bins. Blue bags are opaque and prevent the recycling sorting facility from being able to see whether they are filled with trash. Instead of throwing out our blue bags, Tufts is repurposing them.  Tufts will continue to use the blue bags for trash bags until the blue bags run out.

As consumers and recyclers alike, we all need to make sure that we are properly sorting our recycling from trash. Help us keep our recycling clean so it can actually be used again! This is the only way to ensure that the recycling facility will not reject our recycling.

Never put these items in the recycling bin:

  • Liquids
  • Food waste
  • Plastic bags

Remember these items, and nothing else, go in the recycling bin:

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Glass
  • Metal (aluminum)*
  • Rigid plastics*

* = If you have a rigid plastic or aluminum to-go container, please rinse or wipe off food waste before recycling it.

via GIPHY

For more information on recycling at Tufts visit the Facilities Services – Recycling & Waste Management website or email recycle@tufts.edu.

Solid Waste Specialist, Eastern Research Group, Inc. (Boston, MA)

This position involves supporting federal and state environmental agencies with researching solid waste policy issues, including those that pertain to municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris, and hazardous waste. The position is in ERG’s Boston office, and will start as early as October 15, 2017.

Required Skills & Qualifications:

  • One or more years of experience in municipal solid waste or relevant field of study or practice.
  • Experience researching waste management issues and initiatives, such as recycling, waste reduction, composting, lifecycle analysis, and organic waste (e.g., food waste diversion).
  • A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in environmental science, environmental policy, or related field.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills and analytical skills.

Preferred Skills & Qualifications:

  • Familiarity with biogas recovery from municipal solid waste or wastewater.
  • International experience in any relevant scientific field of study or practice.

 

Application Deadline: September 13
To Apply: e-mail your cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to john.wilhelmi@erg.com.
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