Tag: recycle (page 1 of 3)

Update on Recycling Rules – Throw Out Colored Cups, But Recycle Clear Plastic Cups

Due to shifts in global recycling systems and high contamination levels of U.S. recyclable materials, the Massachusetts DEP has recently announced new recycling rules. One major change is that colored plastic cups will no longer be accepted in our recycling stream. However, clear plastic cups will still be taken. To avoid accidentally ending up with a colored cup, be sure to bring your own reusable cup the next time you buy a beverage on the go!

For details on the rules, view the visual guide below and check out the DEP’s website on their new guidelines.

Empty, Clean, and Dry

Items that can be recycled such as hard plastic containers, yogurt cups and plastic bottles and jugs (with the caps on) as well as glass bottles MUST be emptied, cleaned, and dried before being placed in a recycling bin. Please do not put any items with food, food residue, or liquid still in them in the recycling bins.

Plastic Bags are NOT recyclable

Any kind of plastic film or plastic bags can not be placed in the recycling bins. This includes grocery bags, bubble wrap, flexible plastic packaging, saran wrap, zip lock bags, and styrofoam. These items get caught in the machinery used in sorting facilities and can cause breakdowns and even worker injuries.

Other items that are NOT accepted as recycling

These items go to the landfill. Do NOT place these items in the recycling bins.

Paper items

  • paper towels
  • paper plates
  • tissues
  • cups (with lids)

Cardboard

  • greasy pizza box bottoms
  • juice and milk cartons

Plastic (even with recycling symbol)

  • colored plastic cups
  • plastic bags and plastic wrap
  • chip bags
  • styrofoam
  • plastic utensils
  • foil-lined energy bars – brings these to a terracycle bin (locations on our Eco-Map) instead!

Glass

  • lightbulbs – bring incandescent and CFL light bulbs to 550 Boston Ave. to have them replaced for LED light bulbs!
  • broken glass

When in doubt, throw it out

It may seem counterintuitive to throw something out in order to support sustainability. However, it is much better to throw something out if you are unsure it can be recycled rather than contaminate the recycling with materials that can not be recycled. Please refer to the infographic below, but when in doubt, throw it out.

In addition, do not rely on the triangular recycling symbol found on many products. This symbol signifies that the material used in the product are physically able be recycled, but that does not meant that the waste infrastructure in your specific community  has the capacity to recycle them.

For example, the sorting facility where recyclables from Tufts end up can not accept plastic bags, as they can damage the sorting equipment. However, companies like Trex take plastic bags and have a separate, special sorting facility where they can turn those bags into recycled outdoor decking materials and products.

 

Eco-Ambassador Visit to Casella Waste Management Materials Recovery Facility

On Thursday, August 2nd, 12 Eco-Ambassadors, two Office of Sustainability staff members and one intern  visited the Casella Waste Systems Inc. Material Recovery Facility located in Charlestown, MA.

The visit was facilitated by Gretchen Carey, the Recycling & Organics Coordinator from Republic Services, Tufts’ waste hauler. Once we arrived at the facility, Mark Evans of Casella’s Commercial and Municipal Business Development Department explained the recycling process, what kinds of materials are processed at the facility, and the dos and don’ts of recycling.

A typical recycling lecture may simply end there. However, given China’s new policies about what recycled materials they will accept from the U.S. that has had a significant impact on the U.S. recycling industry, Mark spent a majority of the time explaining the current state of global recycling systems and what it means for the U.S.

How China influences the U.S. recycling industry

Mark explained that 800 – 1000 tons of materials are processed at their facility each day. The facility does not have the capacity to store a large amount of materials at a time. After materials are sorted and baled, they get shipped to places that will take the recycled materials and use them to manufacture new products.

In recent years, around 90% of all recycled materials sorted by Casella were exported to China.  This is different than when Mark first started working in the business, when only around 20% of the material was exported. Back then, a majority of the materials would go to domestic processing plants which have since been shut down due to China’s domination of the market.

The current problem

In the last few months,  China stopped accepting recycled materials from the U.S. due to the level of contamination of U.S. recycled materials. This is in large part due to their desire to increase implementation of environmental policies.

In the U.S., recycling has moved to be collected in a single stream in most locations, meaning that all recyclable items can be disposed of in a single container. The contents are then separated and processed in a plant like the one we visited. Contamination is an inherent problem with mixed recycling.

In recent years, due to the switch to automated waste collection, there is no one to physically monitor the items being hauled into the recycling trucks and delivered to the recycling plants. According to Mark, on average, the material that comes through Casella’s plant has a contamination level of around 10-20%.

One of the largest hits to Casella is associated with mixed paper – basically anything that is not cardboard or newspaper. Casella used to be able to sell mixed paper to Chinese companies for around $80-90 a ton. Now, they have to pay to get rid of it. As a result, Casella had to increase what they charge their customers for processing their recycling.

These changes were implemented so quickly that the U.S. industry has not had time to adapt. Gretchen mentioned that there was very little warning regarding China’s new policies. Last summer, they were notified that the level of contamination had to go down to 0.5%. By December, China started to implement this policy.

You can’t recycle electronics through regular recycling!

What needs to change

“They are just doing what should have been done years ago,” Mark commented, referring to China’s new, stricter regulations. However, now that China has made the switch, the U.S. also has to find ways to reduce contamination of recycled materials and increase outlets to recycle the material domestically.

Because of the single-stream and automated systems, it is imperative that individuals know what can and can’t be recycled and act accordingly. Gretchen and Mark both mentioned the phenomenon of “wish-cycling” or “aspiration recycling.” This is when someone thinks, “this seems recyclable, so maybe if I put it in the recycling bin it will get recycled.” If there is any doubt, it is better to simply put the items in the trash rather than to contaminate the recycling and increase labor for the workers in the recycling plants.

Materials like plastic film, cords, and other items that tangle easily in particular increase labor for workers at the plant, as they get wrapped around equipment used for sorting and compacting. The equipment is rendered useless until cleared.

Systemic changes also need to occur within the U.S. recycling industry to create more outlets for recycling. One solution is for individual companies to become outlets for specific materials.

If you are often on the Tufts Medford/Somerville campus, you have probably run into a Terracycle recycling bin. Tufts is part of Terracycle’s “Energy Bar Brigade.” Through this program, foil-lined energy bars collected get sent to Terracycle to be recycled and turned into new products. Because the materials collected are so specific and uniform, there is no contamination and it is easy to turn the materials into new products.

Similarly, recently, Tufts has recently started to look into putting out separate collection bins for plastic bags and film, which cannot go in the regular recycling stream. Once collected, these can be sent to Trex, an outdoor decking company. Trex is able to use the plastic film to create new eco-friendly products.

These kinds of new outlets for recyclable materials, if utilized, can help reduce contamination rates of single stream recycling.

Hope on the horizon

Despite the bleakness of the past few months in the U.S. recycling industry, Mark noted that he is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Recently, Nine Dragons, a Chinese paper milling company, announced that it will acquire two U.S.-based paper milling plants. This could open up domestic outlets for U.S. waste facilities to send recycling.

While this will definitely help the current disastrous situation for the U.S. recycling industry, one or two new domestic mills will not be enough to meet the demand for recycling outlets. Industries, companies, and vendors will increasingly be pushed to create products with recycled materials, or to take back materials that cannot be put in the regular waste streams.

All in all, the trip was an incredibly informative and enlightening experience that is sure to make all of the already environmentally-conscious Eco-Ambassadors even more attentive of what they place in their recycling bins.

2018 Eco-Ambassador Grant Winners

Through participation in either two condensed half-day or monthly 2-hour educational sessions, Tufts’ faculty and staff Eco-Ambassadors are eligible to apply for a $100 grant to help realize a project that will further sustainability efforts on campus.

This year, there were 3 grant recipients: Chris Bishal from the Office of Student Affairs at Tufts School of Medicine, Misha D’Andrea and Brianna Florio from the Office of Admissions at SMFA, and Dan Birdsall from the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Fletcher School.

Read on to find out what the grants were used for this year!

Reusable Place Settings at the Tufts School of Medicine

Chris Bishal from the Tufts School of Medicine at the Boston campus proposed to purchase reusable small plates, bowls, cups, and silverware for the Office of Student Affairs conference room. These are now used for meetings and gatherings as well as for every day use by staff.

Previously in this space, light snacks, pastries, and coffee provided for various staff, Dean, and committee meetings as well as meetings between faculty advisors and student advisees were served on paper plates and consumed with plastic utensils. The new dishes purchased with the grant greatly reduce the amount of waste produced by these meetings.

A Greener Accepted Students Day at the SMFA

Admissions Assistant Misha d’Andrea and  Admissions Counselor Brianna Florio from the SMFA Office of Admissions are the first to receive Eco-Ambassador training at the SMFA campus. On April 20th, the SMFA hosted accepted students at their annual Jumbo Day, and they felt that this would be the “perfect opportunity to spread sustainable practices as well as have an eco-friendly lunch enjoyed by all.”

In order to make this year’s Jumbo day “as green as possible”, Misha and Brianna used the grant to purchase compostable plates, cups, utensils, and stirring sticks. As these items are more costly than paper and plastic items, it would have been difficult to budget for them without the grant.  By having attendees compost all their food waste in addition to their place settings, they were able to make the event zero-waste.

SMFA Eco Rep Maria tabling at Jumbo Day and getting future Jumbos excited about sustainability!

Not only did Misha and Brianna help minimize the waste produced by this year’s SMFA Jumbo Day, they were also able to get the future generation of Tufts students “excited about sustainability and composting at this campus” in coordination with Maria, the SMFA’s student Eco-Rep who tabled at the event.

New Compost Bin in the Fletcher School’s Hall of Flags

Molly and Dan with the new compost bin in the Hall of Flags at Fletcher.

Dan Birdsall, the associate director of the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Fletcher School, along with Molly Haragan, a 2nd year Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy candidate, proposed to purchase a new compost bin for the Hall of Flags. The Hall of Flags is the Fletcher School’s highest-traffic area and main gathering location for students, staff, and faculty.

While there was already a compost bin at Fletcher in the Mugar Café, Molly noticed that a significant amount of food is also consumed in the Hall of Flags, where frequent receptions and admissions events occur. Additionally, food leftover from student-organized events are often placed in the Hall of Flags, and many students also eat in this space as well as in the rest of the building.

Previously, much of the food waste from the Hall of Flags often ended up in the garbage can rather than being transported to the compost bin at the Mugar Café. As a result, an additional compost bin at this location has significantly helped reduce food waste that will go directly to landfills. “Composting is now the obvious and easy option there,” Dan explains. Molly has just graduated and identified a few returning students interested in sustainability that will help monitor and empty the bins next school year.

 

 

2018 Tufts Move-Out Recap

Summer has officially begun, all of the students leaving Medford for the summer have moved out, and we can finally stop posting all over our social media about Move-Out 2018!

Thank you so much to everyone who donated their unwanted items. This year, we collected 14,290 pounds of textiles, 719 pounds of food, as well as a significant amount of other donations in the form of e-waste, books, appliances, furniture, and miscellaneous items! That is very significant amount of items that will not be going straight into the landfills, as would have otherwise happened.

Many thanks also to all of the Recycling student workers and staff and the Office of Sustainability staff who helped sort through, organize, carry, and store all of the items. It took us many, many hours to ensure that what can be reused will have the opportunity to find a new home.

So what happens with all the items that are collected?

  • Many of the items that are in working and usable condition go to the Back To School Sale hosted by the Green House in the fall. The profits from the sale help them run programs on campus throughout the school year.Items collected that will be sold in the fall move out sale
  • Books go to the Book-it-Forward Lending Library which allows Tufts students on financial aid to borrow textbooks and other books. Books that will go to book-it-forward
  • Non-perishable food items are donated to Project Soup, part of the Somerville Homeless CoalitionNon perishable foods taken to Project Soup
  • Dining hall dishes get taken back to the dining halls!
  • Textiles (old clothing, sheets, linens, towels, etc.) go to Bay State Textiles, where 50% of the textiles are recycled for reuse, 30% are turned into wiping cloths, and 20% are recycled into new items. Joannie and Tina with all of the textiles donations!
  • Plastic bags are taken to Whole Foods who then deliver them to Trex, an outdoor decking and living products company. Trex converts used plastic film into new, environmentally responsible outdoor products!

Although we are happy to help minimize waste that will go to landfills through our move-out initiative, we also want to remind you that the best way to reduce waste would simply be to purchase fewer items, especially if you are not certain you will use them! You would be surprised by how many unopened packages we found of various miscellaneous items, as well as clothes and shoes that seemed barely worn.

Nonetheless, everything that was donated will be put to good use, and we hope that those who will be returning to school in the fall will stop by the Green House’s Back To School Sale – there will be many great items sold at significantly discounted prices (lots of dorm furniture, some coffee makers, a pair of Hunter boots and some North Face down jackets in good condition, just to name a few)!

Eco-Rep Update: Living a Green Life

by Arshiya Goel

This week the Eco-reps had Dr. Jack Barbash as a guest speaker. A research chemist for the U.S. Geological Survey, he spoke to us about his job and his views on the green movement. I was especially inspired by his dedication to living sustainably. When he visited Boston from California, he took the train (a three day journey) instead of flying! We were all impressed by the amount of patience this takes and what a big difference it makes. Airplanes are the worst gas-guzzlers and have humongous carbon footprints, while trains use only a small percentage of that energy for the same distance travelled.

It’s not easy to forgo the ease of flying for long train journeys in order to reduce your carbon footprint, but the key to sustainable living is baby steps towards those big commitments! Here are a few simple ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and live green during college!

  • Recycle! Tufts recycles everything from paper, cardboard, hard plastics to aluminum foil and metals. Just look at the front of the bins on your floors.
  • Use CFL or LED bulbs. They use less energy and last for decades. Take your old bulbs to the Office of Sustainability (on the back of Miller Hall) to trade them in for a CFL!
  • Use cold wash when doing laundry. This is better for your clothes and uses a lot less energy.  To do this in the dorm laundry machines choose “woolens” or “bright colors”.
  • Plug your electronics into a power strip and remember to turn it off when you leave your room. This stops them from leaking “vampire energy”.
  • Compost your food scraps! Our dorm composts can compost nearly everything (but no meat, dairy or eggs, please).
  • Try to cut down on your shower time or just turn the faucet off while shampooing.
  • You can recycle batteries, ink cartridges, cell phones, and even electronic chargers. Look for the white boxes in your dorms and in some other buildings on campus!
  • REDUCE! Think about the packaged things you are buying and make choices that decrease the waste you produce.

For more information and tips you can ask any Eco-rep for a Green Guide. These are just small steps towards creating a sustainable lifestyle. Every decision you make can make a difference. With every step we take, we aim to collectively reduce our negative impact on the climate as a species. It’s not always easy and it’s rarely comfortable, but it is essential for our future on this planet. And maybe next time you need to travel from Boston to New York or Seattle to Portland you can consider taking a train and enjoying the beautiful scenery from ground level!

-Arshiya

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