How I Met Your Discards

A look inside R2ePack,  by Stephanie Heatley-Quinlan

Ever wonder who picks up all the stuff left behind in the donation boxes when the students leave for the summer or for that matter where it goes? Tufts Recycles! is here to clear your confusion! It all takes place in steps; after all you’re not the only one who left stuff behind. Starting at 12 Dearborn working all the way up through Latin way, Professors Row to West, Hill and finally Miller, over a two week period, Tufts Recycles! hits them all. Our team is not the only ones that have work to do once students flee for summer. During our cleanup, health and safety checks are made, work orders arranged and large amounts of cleaning are scheduled campus wide. UGL employees work long hard days in the heat vacuuming, sweeping, waxing and turning dorm rooms into a brand new beginning for the next coming scholar. Tufts Facilities Services works hard to ensure that students have a safe new environment to move into come September.  No corner is left untouched, or issue unresolved- a huge thanks is to be spread campus wide to all that put in efforts to maintain and ensure that Tufts produces the happy healthy environment advertised and promised in our brochures.

Cleaning, sorting, and moving what students left behind is no easy process. Every large job starts somewhere and for Tufts Recycles! it all begins with clear trash bags. Clear trash bags with which we stuff our pockets high, taking our bags we start with the large freecycle and clothing bins located in common rooms, lobby ways, and entranceways depending upon the location. A good amount of materials are intermixed so a lot of needs to be sorted. No reusable material gets left behind! Sharp items like pencils, cords, knives, even toys burst open our bags leaving us no choice but to double up the bag and take caution moving it to the truck. After bagging everything in the boxes, we carry our full trash bags to the truck which is either a rented U-Save or a Facilities Services truck. After a day of this job I’d say our crew’s exempt from the gym for the next week! We work our way through every box, hitting every dormitory.  After the final closing date post-commencement, we start going through rooms and floors. The rooms are always a surprise; you truly never know what you’re going to stumble across. We find everything from rooms that are spotless to rooms you’d question whether or not the student actually left. We take foam, sheets, clothes, hangers, storage, rugs, shampoo, sealed food, and mirrors. You hear the cliché saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” the saying couldn’t be more accurate. Tufts is a top college with many interesting students. Just from working here I’ve had coworkers from Utah, Puerto Rico, California, New York, and even Italy!  Most of them fly home and are limited to the airport’s 50 pound luggage weight limit, forcing these students to leave materials behind. The ones that drive are limited to what they can compile in their car. In both situations, materials get left behind, even sometimes brand new things. The rest just needs a little 409 or Clorox to save the day! Our efforts aren’t just for the mere fun of what you’ll come across next, they are to reduce, reuse, recycle and help incoming students save a few bucks.

So now you know what we take; what do we do with it? All of our stuff we find gets transported to our warehouse located on Boston Ave. It is here that we sort and compile everything into specific locations. All of the hangers go to a specific section (we actually have what looks like a mountain,) all of the storage bins go to another, foam, mirrors, cleaning supplies, dining supplies; you get the picture. Throughout the week we work as a team, making sure there is not one room or corner overlooked. Nearing the end of the week, we have gone through all of the dormitories and are left with the houses, where the same process. This is where we separate as the houses are much smaller. About two will go out with our boss, Dawn and our driver to finish up; the rest will work in the warehouse deciphering what is reusable, what goes where, and what should be Freecycled.

Anything that is Freecycled is put aside for a campus event that will take place at the end of August; just before the freshman have their move-in Target trip. Incoming freshman will be encouraged to attend our event and take what they need. This saves you from spending money on a storage container or clothing hangers that cost you about twenty to thirty dollars, depending upon how many you buy. Part of our sorting process is to recycle old and broken, often duct-taped materials and save the best ones for Freecyling. Freecycling saves money and reuses goods (Reuse is the first R!). Just because someone else used it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work the exact same way and serve the exact same purpose as the shiny new one on a store shelf.

This is not the only reusable event that arises from our move out repack. All clothes found are bagged and thrown into a rented trailer to store and transport all of our findings to Baystate Textiles. This company gives us 6 cents per pound of clothes we give. In the end, this system results in about five hundred dollars that we take and put towards the Tufts Community Service Fund, not to bad! All non-perishable, unopened food is donated to a Somerville food bank that gives groceries to local families less fortunate. All rugs are donated to a nearby Salvation Army that sells them at lower prices in order to provide for people that potentially don’t have the money to spend on new. In the end, anything we can save or reuse Tufts Recycles! puts in the extra effort to do so thus resulting in a lot more good that is seen by the naked eye.


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Move Out at Tufts

repackIt’s that magical time of year again. Spring Fling is over, masses are flocking to Tisch to study for finals, and everyone is freaking out about graduating/grades/summer internships. Amid the chaos, it may slip your mind that you haven’t packed and, upon a cursory inspection — holy celery stalks, I have way too much stuff and I can’t bring it all with me to Rwanda for my service trip!

Lucky for you, TuftsRecycles! and Tufts Facilities Services makes it super easy to unburden yourself of unwanted items during move-out. Here’s our quick-and-dirty guide to a stress-free and sustainable move-out for those living on-campus.


We DO NOT ACCEPT in any of our boxes:

  • Wire hangers and frisbees (please recycle these in green glass/metal/plastics bins!)
  • Dirty or soiled items
  • Open or spoiled food
  • Hazardous materials

We thank you for your cooperation in making our move-out process as streamlined and sustainable as possible. If you have any questions, please ask your RA or send us an e-mail!

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GreenBean Earth Day Challenge!

Hey folks! Our friends over at GreenBean Recycle are throwing another fun giveaway, this time for Earth Day! Between now and April 22nd (Monday), the ten individuals who recycle the most cans and bottles at the GreenBean Reverse Vending Machine will receive a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble (usable at the Tufts Bookstore!). One of the lucky ten will also win a brand new Tufts hoodie!

Tufts_EarthDay_Poster (1)That’s right: in addition to the 5¢ deposit you earn on each bottle you recycle, you also get a chance to win even more money and swag! It’s like getting paid twice!

(Psssst! Just so you know, the top recycler only has 61 containers so far for this challenge. Will you be the one to beat? Check out the recycling stats for this challenge at your personal homepage on!)


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Lint: To compost or not to compost?

Lint, that dusty grey stuff that collects in your dryer, has recently been garnering some attention…


The EPA lists dryer lint as safe for composting, claiming that only biodegradable/natural fibers from cotton or wool clothing break down in the wash. According to the US Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, putting polyester or synthetic clothes in the dryer yields “little, if any, lint since these materials do not break down in the washing and drying cycles as natural fibers do.”

… Wait a minute, so only cotton and wool clothing produces lint? Here at TuftsRecycles! we tested this claim. We washed and dried a load of laundry consisting of only fleece blankets, fleece jackets, and nylon clothes – all fabrics made of synthetic materials. Look what we found:

So what’s the big deal…? A recent study published in Environmental Science and Technology found that washing a single fleece produces 2,000 micro-fibers of micro-plastics, tiny bits of polyester and acrylic debris measuring less than 1-millimeter that make up 65% of plastic pollution. The majority of plastic pollution is invisible, but it can carry harmful effects.

Dr. Mark Browne, a post-doc fellow at the University College of Dublin, conducted a study looking at the accumulation of micro-plastic debris on shorelines worldwide. He and his colleagues found that every beach they tested (18 beaches on 6 continents worldwide) contained micro-plastics in the sand, 80% of which was synthetic fibrous material coming from clothing. Nowadays, most clothing is synthetic, and the lint that comes out of drying these clothes is basically a ball of micro-plastics.

So until further research is conducted, we think it’s best to hold off on composting dryer lint and keeping it out of the soil.

 …What do you think?






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How One Company is Recycling and Reusing Plastic Waste in the Ocean

We’ve all seen pictures of sea life caught in six pack rings, and plastic bags washed up on shore.  Not only is it heartbreaking, but it pollutes our environment and is a waste of materials. Have you ever wished that something could be done?

Debris collected from beaches along Tern Island in the French Frigate Shoals.


In fact, company Ecover has stepped up to the plate. Ecover is a Belgium-based manufacturer of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.  It is partnering with Closed Loop Recycling to turn plastics collected from the ocean into recyclable plastic bottles for cleaning supplies! The new recycled plastic is expected to be sold in 2014.

This is a part of the Waste Free Oceans program which is working to minimize liter floating along Europe’s coastline and encourage recycling. Waste Free Oceans will be providing boats with trawls capable of collecting anywhere from 2 to 8 metric tons of waste per crawl!

Do you know of any similar local programs? Let us know at

Want to learn more? Click here!

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Every wonder where styrofoam goes?

The people down at Tufts’ Science and Technology did too! Today 29 bags of styrofoam were responsibly recycled by TuftsRecycles! interns and a partner organization that specializes in converting this pesky waste into useful materials.

While we are proud to help recycle this material, we hope one day it will be less prevalent, as it is often not recycled and is very damaging to the environment. For more info on the ecological problems with styrofoam, go to:

We filled up a whole truckload of Styrofoam from SciTech, which had accumulated over months in the building's laboratory spaces


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TR! Intern Diego at the Forward On Climate Rally

This past President’s Day weekend, over 35,000 protesters gathered on the National Mall  urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline in the biggest climate rally ever organized in the US.

Our own TR! intern Diego Laurenti Sellers hopped on board a charter bus provided by to make the trek down to DC. During the trip, he wrote a letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren urging her to take a strong stand on the issue of climate change and to back legislation rejecting its construction.

The rally drew a diverse crowd including people from all ages and political leanings: political leftists, representatives from green companies on Wall Street, and figureheads such as Rosario Dawson who urged the Latin American community to take a strong stand on climate change.

According to Diego, a crucial part of the rally was the presence of a variety of performers and street theater artists who drew attention to issues of wildlife extinction by dressing up as polar bears and wild animals while doubling as entertainment for the many young kids at the rally. It’s these types of creative activism that forge unity across diverse groups.

That's Diego's arm on the right. Source: NPR website.

The success of the rally brings encouragement that issues of climate change have hit the mainstream, but the work doesn’t stop here.

Want to get involved? Take Annie Leonard‘s advice: “

“Making real change takes all kinds of citizens – not just protestors. When you realize what you’re good at and what you like to do, plugging in doesn’t seem so hard. Whatever you have to offer, a better future needs it.

So ask yourself, ‘What kind of change maker am I?’ We need investigators, communicators, builders, resisters, nurturers, and networkers.”

Get involved in any way you can, it takes a wide range of people with a wide range of skills to make real change happen. While the Keystone Pipeline buzzword represents a key point in legislation, there’s more to the climate change movement than preventative measures. Important work lies in shifting the world away from fossil fuels and onto cleaner forms of energy. Let’s keep the momentum going!




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How to Ace the RecycleMania Competition!

As you may know, the RecycleMania competition has officially begun. Tufts dorms and off-campus houses are competing to see who has the best recycling rates.  Over the next few weeks, Tufts Recycles! interns will be walking through Tufts dorms grading recycling efforts. (Don’t be afraid to say hi and ask us questions, we love talking about recycling!)

As the competition heats up, we want to make sure you are fully prepared for every recycling crossroad you may face. Here are some helpful hints and tips about the trickiest things that can and can’t be recycled at Tufts.

  • Pizza boxes can be recycled only if they are not oily and dirty. Usually this means that you can tear off the lid and drop it in the paper recycling bin. Make sure not to contaminate the recycling with the oily bottom though.
  • Paper coffee cups can be recycled. The fuzzy cups, however, can’t be recycled. Make sure to separate the plastic lid and put it in the plastic recycling container.
  • Aluminum foil can be recycled in the plastic recycling container as long as it is clean.
  • Plastic utensils can be recycled! They go in the plastic recycling bin. Just make sure they are clean.
  • Tissues and Napkins cannot be recycled. We know, it’s unfortunate! Try to use cloth whenever possible.
  • Plastic shopping bags cannot be recycled with your other plastic recycleables! Use reusable shopping bags whenever possible instead.
  • Batteries can be recycled (except for liquid and gel acid batteries). All around campus there are special containers for recycling batteries. Put a piece of tape over the ends of the batteries to help prevent fire hazards.
  • Notebooks can be recycled, they are considered paper. Don’t worry about the spiral.

So there you have it! Explanations about some of the most commonly questioned recyclable (and non-recyclable) materials. Now you are all set to help your dorm win RecycleMania! Happy recycling!

Still have questions about the nitty gritty details of other tricky materials? Send an email to

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Recycling at “Reversing Global Warming while Meeting Human Needs: An Urgently Needed Land-Based Option”

Last Friday, restoration ecologist Allan Savory gave a talk called “Reversing Global Warming while Meeting Human Needs: An Urgently Needed Land-Based Option” at the Fletcher School.  The event was hosted by the Agriculture, Forests, and Biodiversity Program of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at the Fletcher School; the Agriculture, Food, and Environment Program of Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; and Planet-Tech Associates.  The talk and the question and answer session that followed highlighted Holistic Management, a decision making framework which helps teach people how to strategically manage livestock to help heal land that has undergone desertification.

Tufts Recycles Intern Lauren at the event.

Our very own Tufts Recycles interns attended the event, and intern Diego assisted with composting and recycling at the reception that followed.  It was a very successful Zero Waste Initiative.  Thank you to everyone who came and helped us compost!

Tufts Recycles Intern Diego mans the composting station at the event.

If you are interested in learning more about the event and Holistic Management, check out the Tufts Daily article and Allan Savory’s organization, the Savory Institute.

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