TuftsRecycles! Staff Retreat: Beach Clean-Up in Winthrop

by Alexandra Minter
IMG_4034Last weekend, the TuftsRecycles! crew ventured out to Winthrop for a splendid morning and afternoon, dedicated to both building as a team while taking part in an important cause. After a week of agony of not knowing the top secret location of our retreat, the team was pleasantly surprised to find ourselves on Yirrell Beach in Winthrop. We spent our trip there learning about each other with fun trivia games and continued these throughout our cleanup extravaganza in small groups. WP_20150607_002

Throughout the day, we came across an endangered species of shore birds called Piping Plovers. The people of Winthrop have gone to extreme measures to help ensure the safety of these adorable tiny birds which only breed in North America. Across Yirrell Beach, these birds have begun nesting, and their babies were seen scurrying across the sand, blending in with their surroundings.

The team was also surprised with a guest appearance by Dawn Quirk, our previous supervisor and recycling extraordinaire, and her husband, Chris. After a morning of cleaning and discussion, we gathered to sort our findings, which included way too many cans and a surprising amount of forgotten towels. After a photo op, we headed over to Dawn’s beautiful seaside abode and dined on some delicious food, discovering our tan lines left on our skin after a morning in the sun.

Stay tuned to our summer adventures as we continue to operate throughout the season on new projects!

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R2ePACK: Back Again!

by M.T. Snyder

As the bell tolls 10:00 PM, Tufts students pull themselves out of their books and into the only hour of the day not deemed “quiet” by ResLife during finals period. Stretching and yawning, skipping and hopping, students notice a new mysterious box in their on-campus housing.

What could it be? What’s in the box?

Why, it’s R2ePACK, of course! Here again to help you Reuse, Recycle Everything. Pack and Clean…’K?! As one of the largest initiatives at Tufts Recycles!, R2ePACK collects everything that you don’t need or want during move-out. These items are either donated to Goodwill or kept to be freecycled in September at move-in.  Additionally, all non-perishable unopened food will be collected and donated to a local food pantry in Somerville. Please use the checklist below for specifics as to what exactly R2ePACK collects and start filling up those cardboard boxes instead of landfills!

Microsoft Word - Small Houses Sign


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Recycle Your Tennis Balls!

by W. Parker MacLure



Tennis players take note! Last fall Tufts Recycles started recycling tennis balls! When your ball has reached the end of its playable life, rather than throwing it away please place the dead ball one of the large clear bins with a picture of a tennis ball on the side (see image below). Right now, during the winter, the bins are located in the Gantcher Center near the bathrooms and bleachers. During the spring, summer, and fall the bins will be located at both entrances to the Voute Tennis Courts (the blue ones on Professors Row).

Currently there are only re-use applications for tennis balls and no accepted recycle tennis ball binmethods. Traditional re-use applications include putting them on the legs of chairs and using them as dog toys. Also a company called ReBounces  balls to extend their playable life. Reuse methods simply extend the life of the ball, delaying when it arrives in a landfill.

Frustrated by this problem, the members of Tufts Recycles did some research and found Project Green Ball (PGB), the largest tennis ball recycler in the United States. PGB is a nonprofit organization that recycles tennis balls to be used in the construction of surfaces that are donated to organizations that help people with disabilities and life threatening diseases. Currently they work with IGK Equestrian grind up the tennis balls and use them as a component in horse arena turf. This turf is then donated to therapeutic riding centers that help people with disabilities or life threatening diseases. PGB is also looking into the possibility of recycling the balls to use as insulation in buildings; however, this is still in the testing stages.

For more information visit the Project Green Ball website or Facebook page. And don’t forget to recycle your dead balls!


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Next Up: The Bottle Bill

by M.T. Snyder

This November, voters in Massachusetts will decide on the future of the Bottle Bill, whether to expand it with a new update or to leave the existing bill in place.  Currently, the Massachusetts’s Bottle Bill, which was passed in 1982, places a five-cent deposit on all bottles that contain carbonated beverages as well as beer containers. All dealers of full containers must redeem the empty containers they sell at a five-cent minimum. This means that if you buy a bottle of ginger ale at your local grocery store, you can recycle it at the same store and get five cents back (within sixty days from your purchase). When the bill was passed in 1982, non-carbonated beverages were not a significant portion of the beverage industry, or they likely would have been included in the bill.

The update on the Bottle Bill would expand the five-cent deposit to include non-carbonated beverages sold in containers, such as water, tea, and sports drinks, by revising the definition of “beverages.” Propenents of the bill argue that it will decrease litter in Massachusetts because of the new incentive to recycle and thus save municipalities on costs from cleaning up litter. On the other hand, critics debate the effectiveness of expanding an aged system and whether it will truly cut costs.

What will you vote? Recycling is on the radar for this election, and it certainly is an attention worthy topic. Since this is the final day of Sustainability Week at Tufts, hopefully  living sustainably has been on your mind. Perhaps you have contemplated what you can  do to reduce your impact on the environment, especially as a student at Tufts. Waste reduction is a huge component of sustainability, as you may have learned at the Sustainability Dinner at Dewick on Wednesday night.  Although often it may seem that we have unlimited space which we can fill up with waste, that space is in fact limited and getting smaller daily. Recycling is one method to help minimize the effect that our waste has on the environment and Massachusetts will even compensate you for your pro-active recycling! So make sure that you toss your beverage bottle into the nearest blue recycling bin for glass, metals, and plastics found in many convenient locations Tufts campus.

Continue reading

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Single Stream vs. Dual Stream

by M.T. Snyder

Ever wonder why you can’t just throw anything recyclable into one bin? We have too. In many cities, including Medford and Somerville, users can dispose of all kinds of recyclable materials into one bin for collection. Here at Tufts, however, we have a dual-stream recycling program, which means that paper and cardboard are separated from glass, plastic, and cans.  This system is the standard for recycling programs throughout the US. However, the debate over whether to switch to a single-stream collection system has raged on.

single stream

Other universities have experimented with single-stream recycling, with mixed results. In 2010, the University of Colorado Boulder decided to switch from dual-stream to single-stream for a pilot recycling program.  They used just one bin to collect all recyclables in the residential halls, which was intended to increase participation in recycling due to the convenience of one bin and ease of collecting the recyclables. The test ran from August to May and was publicized to students through direct outreach.

Although the pilot program intended to make collecting recyclables easier, there were many other negative consequences that caused the university to switch back to dual-stream recycling after the school year.  One of the largest costs associated with the program was that contamination in the recycling bins increased significantly.  Increased amounts of trash were found in the recycling bin, and residue from food/beverage containers ruined the paper fibers in the bin.  Because of this, the recycled papers collected had reduced life cycles and were worth less when CU sold the materials.

The only place at Tufts where single-stream recycling exists is at the Dental School building on the Boston campus. Due to the mixed-use clinic, office, and classroom setting, TuftsRecycles! decided to test out a single-stream program there several years ago. While we’re still not convinced that this program could be scaled over the entire university, or even to the rest of the Boston campus, we still look to the Dental School program as a potential site for innovation and learning for recycling on campus.

For now, Tufts will remain a dual stream campus where paper materials are sorted out from other recyclables, unless our waste stream profiles begin to show that it would assist in attaining our annual 3% waste reduction goal. So keep putting paper in those lovely blue bins and know that you are helping Tufts get closer and closer to achieving “zero-waste.”

Further reading:

CU Boulder Single-Stream Recycling: http://www.aashe.org/resources/case-studies/testing-single-stream-versus-dual-stream-recycling-cu

Tufts University Dental School Recycling: http://dental.tufts.edu/about/green-initiative/recycling/

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Welcome Back!

by M.T. Snyder

Welcome all new and returning students! As summer turns into fall, Tufts’ campus becomes more picturesque each day with vibrant leaves in the trees, clear blue skies above our heads, and yellow compost bins on the curb. You may remember some of Tufts Recycles initiatives (Recyclemania, anyone?), but let’s sweep the cobwebs out of those corners with a quick refresher about what you can do on campus to reduce waste.

As mentioned above, just keep your eyes peeled for those big yellow bins that are just waiting for you to pop in your apple core or food remains.  If you’re on-campus, you will probably find a compost bin in the kitchen, but if you’re off-campus fill out a request form and an intern will drop one off. Composting is a strong part of Tufts waste reduction program, and the Medford campus alone composts a little over one ton of food waste each day, according to Tufts Dining Services. Get involved in composting because you’re giving mother nature a hand in her version of recycling and you can’t get better karma than that.

Sometimes you don’t bring enough notebooks to campus, but sometimes (okay most of the time) you bring way too many hangers, binders, trashcans, fans, and clothes. What are you going to do then? Well my friends, the answer is simple enough. Freecycle it! There are Freecycle closets in Haskell, South, Hodgdon, and Wren where you can give and take items with ease. No need to fill up your personal trashcan with usable items – just put it in the communal closet and you’ll definitely make someone else’s day (a Tufts Recycles intern’s day to be specific).

Finally, here’s the nitty-gritty details about recycling:

  • Green = bottles, glass, hard metals, plastic lids (feel free to lift the lid)
  • Blue = paper (you know this one)
  • Yellow = compost (all those slippery banana peels and other organics)
  • Grey* = trash (don’t need that though, right?)

So now you have it all. Compost, freecycle, recycle – get your groove on and get sustainable this year!

*Although sometimes you may see a brown trashcan, we’re phasing those out for all grey ones.

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New Charging Station and Mural

by W. Parker MacLure


Last September Tufts worked with National Grid to install an electric vehicle charging station in the Dowling parking garage on the first level. In order to make the charging station more visible, Tufts Recycles was commissioned to create a mural that highlights Tufts efforts towards a more sustainable future. The mural was designed by Rachel Ison (’14) and painted with the help of Tufts Recycles.  The mural was completed on May 17, 2014, the day before Tufts Graduation.

Rachel graduated this spring with a degree in Anthropology and Environmental Studies. She spent her senior year interning here at Tufts Recycles. Her mural features a green and white color palate and is approximately 8 feet high by 20 feet wide. It features images of renewable energy sources such as windmills and solar panels, as well as a picture of an electric car.

The charging station is owned and operated by National Grid, a multinational British electricity and gas company headquartered in London that also operates in the northeastern United States. The station is capable of charging up to two plug in electric vehicles (PEVs) at a time. Electric cars have the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions because they do not emit exhaust from a tailpipe and can be powered by renewable resources. The use of electric cars however is limited due to the lack of infrastructure in the form of charging stations that exists. Tufts choice to install the charging station demonstrates a commitment to a more sustainable future.

photo 2 (1)

photo 1

Update 7/31/14: An earlier version of this post failed to clarify that the station is owned and operated by National grid.

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Goodbye Seniors!

by M.T. Snyder

Tufts Recycles! congratulates each member of the Class of 2014 on all of their achievements and hard work throughout their time at Tufts. Over 10,000 supporters, including the Tufts Recycles! team, came out to the commencement ceremony at the Medford campus to see the graduates off into the post-college world.  As the sun shone brightly above, the graduates’ family and friends enjoyed picnicking on the President’s Lawn where 7,500 boxed lunches had been pre-made. After lunch was finished, the TR! team separated out the various components of the lunches at this Zero-Waste Event with a commingled recycling station where paper and plastic went into one receptacle.  Left-over food waste was placed into the yellow and black compost bins that had been set out into 7 stations. CompostToters_YellowIn the end, just four bags of trash (made up mostly of plastic wrappings) were sent to the dumpster after the Commencement Lunch, which was definitely a resounding success for an event of this size!  Next year TR! hopes that the trash from Commencement Lunch can be reduced to less than four bags and the graduating class will get to enjoy another Zero-Waste Event with just as much pride.

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R2ePACK. Or, the dirty things you left behind

by Mina Brewer

The spring semester is over, and campus is dead. You’ve packed up, moved out, and gone home for the summer. But  the work’s not over…at least for the Tufts Recycles! team. If you’ve been on campus these past few weeks, you may have seen a small group of people lugging big clear trash bags from dorms into a big rental truck and moving around campus sitting in the back of it on top of the hundreds of mattress pads and amongst the plethora of strange items students leave behind. This was R2ePACK, and it was an adventure. Several brave souls and I worked with Dawn Quirk for two weeks cleaning out everything left behind in student housing. We went from Carpenter House to SoGo to Latin Way, Haskell, Russian House, and even out to the graduate houses you didn’t know existed all the way up on Fairmont street. For days and days we bagged up clothes, sheets, towels, mattress pads, lamps, hangers, fans, storage bins, crutches and trash cans from the freecycle boxes in the lobbies and lounges of these dorms and houses. While some were barely full, others looked like this, a deserted but very messy Wilson House:photo 1 (2)

And a very very messy SoGo:image (2)image

We worked tirelessly, bagging up this stuff, loading it into a rental truck, then moving it from there into the gigantic goodwill trailer to be donated. photo 3photo 4photo 2 (2)Here’s what it looked like when it was empty…IMG_20140519_151006And when it was full, we literally couldn’t fit another bag inside.image (1)

Though it was weird to see how much stuff people throw away during move out, it was even weirder to see how much they just left inside their rooms. After senior week when everyone had moved out of the dorms, we started going inside, looking through suites in Hillsides, SoGo, and Latin Way to collect food, clothes, sheets, and anything goodwill could use. We found some suites that were spotless, but some looked like people hadn’t moved out at all. Sheets were on the beds, fridges were full, and bathrooms were stocked. We found some very weird rooms that were full of very interesting things, like the one below.photoWe did the same thing here, bagging up items and moving them into the goodwill truck. It seemed like we would never be done!10371604_10152282131097605_5615318560681167633_nphoto (1)But finally, the last bag was in the trailer! We collected all the freecycle boxes from every dorm and house, and took all the unopened food to Project Soup in Somverville.photo (2)All of the dorm supplies that were still in good condition, like lamps, mirrors, hangers, tables, storage boxes, shower caddies, vacuums, brooms, ironing boards, and kitchen and school supplies were separated and put into storage rooms to be given to incoming freshmen next year. A portion of these will be put in the freecycle areas in South, Haskell, Wren, and the newly renovated Tilton and Hodgdon halls. The rest will be given away at an event put on by the Tufts Green House (Latin Way 250s) during freshman orientation (look out for more updates about this early next semester!)


If this experience taught me anything, it’s that I really really didn’t need to buy as many hangers as I did. Or all those command hooks and cheap pillows. To incoming freshmen – remember that you’ll be able to take your pick of all these nice dorm supplies for free! And to everyone, remember to buy only what  you need when coming back next semester. 


Mina Brewer



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R2epack Continues!

by Mina Brewer

With students moving out every day now, the piles of unwanted clothes, lamps, mirrors, and school supplies keep rising. But our trash may be someone’s treasure! All the clothes we collect from R2epack go to Goodwill, and the Tufts Green House (Latin Way 250s) will be giving away these used dorm supplies at the beginning of next semester for a back to school freecycle!

Remember, before you leave – Reuse, recycle everything, and pack and clean before you go home. Have a great summer everyone!


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