Author: Kristen Kaufman

2021 Move Out: Donations, Recycling, and Waste


Each year during spring semester Move-Out, the Tufts Office of Sustainability collects donation items as part of its “Trash to Treasures” program. The purpose of Trash to Treasures is to divert salvageable goods from landfills and instead provide them to community members who will use them.


Visualization of donation station locations.

There will be two staffed donation stations, equipped with trailers and collection bins:  

  1. Lower Campus (Haskell Hall on Latin Way)
  2. Upper Campus (Carmichael Hall Parking Lot) 

There will be four 24/7 UPod drop-off locations:*

  1. Haskell Hall on Latin Way
  2. Carmichael Hall Parking Lot
  3. Lot next to 123 Packard Ave
  4. Hill Hall parking lot

For more information about donation station and drop-off locations, visit our 2021 Move Out Donations Map.


Wednesday, May 4th – Friday May 7th: No donation stations, but students may drop off accepted donation items at any of the four UPods 24/7

Saturday, May 8th – Friday, May 14th: Lower and upper campus donation stations are open and staffed from 10:00am-5:00pm daily

Saturday, May 15th: Lower and upper campus donation stations are open until 12:00pm

Picture of UPods. Peel apart velcro and open using handle on side door.


UPods are open for drop-off at all hours from May 4th through May 15th at 12:00pm.

If someone needs to donate at night or early morning when the donation stations are closed, please drop-off donations inside of one of the four UPod locations.


  • Clothing, sheets, shoes
  • Household items: storage containers, dorm decor, fans, vacuums, large and small lamps, mirrors, waste bins, laundry baskets
  • Dining hall dishes 
  • Books and school supplies 
  • Crutches and exercise/sports equipment
  • Unopened, non-perishable food
  • Cleaning supplies: laundry detergent, brooms and sweepers
  • Toiletries: Unopened bottles, feminine hygiene products
  • Kitchen cookware, working kitchen appliances
  • Working electronics
  • Furniture
  • Rugs
  • Media items (DVDs, VHS, CDs, vinyl records, Blu-Ray, etc.)

We will have additional collection bins at both the lower and upper campus donation stations for recycling the following:  

  • Plastic film, including grocery bags, air pillows, bubble wrap, and produce bags 
  • Broken small electronics   

We DO NOT accept:

  • Mattresses
  • Pillows
  • Hangers
  • Hazardous items (for more information about battery and lightbulb recycling at Tufts, visit our specialty recycling webpage)


To increase the efficiency of Tufts’ Move Out process, bring your recycling and trash to an outside dumpster. This will ease the load on our hardworking custodial and Facilities staff.


Recycling dumpsters have blue lids. View up-to-date locations of campus recycling dumpsters on our Eco-Map.

View our website for more information about how-to-recycle and specialty recycling at Tufts.


Trash dumpsters have black lids. View up to date locations of campus trash dumpsters on our Eco-Map.

There will additional be large open top trash dumpsters placed at the following locations: Harleston Hall (2), Latin Way (1), Carmichael (1), Talbot (1), Miller Hall (1), and Hill Hall (1).

View our website for more information about how to properly dispose of your waste at Tufts.



Tufts won a bench made out of recycled plastic film!

The bench, located in the backyard of CoHo

Tufts has a range of specialty recycling programs through which its community members can sustainably dispose of items that cannot be conventionally recycled. This includes items such as batteries, ink and toner, textiles, and as of 2018—plastic film! Tufts’ plastic film recycling program is a partnership between local grocers and Trex, a composite decking company.

In September 2019, Tufts signed-up for a Trex challenge to recycle 500 pounds of plastic film in 6 months. Between student Move-In, Dining Center kitchens, the mail room, and a range of other efforts, Tufts was able to meet this goal. In turn, we won a Trex bench made out of recycled plastic film!

The plaque on the bench.

How did we win the challenge?

Learn more about how we engaged the Tufts community and recycled enough plastic film to win the challenge:  

Student Move-In and plastic film recycling:

Some plastic film from Move In 2019.

Each fall when students move back to campus, they bring with them a range of packing items, often including a large amount of plastic film such as air pillows and bubble wrap. During Fall 2019 Move-In, our recycling workers circulated the residence halls and dumpsters with special bags for collecting plastic film from students. We were able to collect 192 pounds of film during Move-In alone!

Residence hall recycling competition and waste audits:

Contamination in the recycling from one of our waste audits, mostly consisting of plastic film items.

Later in the 2019 fall semester, the Office of Sustainability (OOS) recycling team partnered with the Eco-Reps to hold a residence hall recycling competition. We judged the competition through a series of 11 waste audits in the residence halls. Through good-spirited competition, we educated about and encouraged proper recycling.

The waste audits also provided valuable qualitative and quantitative data about diversion rate, contamination rate, and the most common contaminants in the recycling stream. Contaminants are when items that cannot be conventionally recycled are placed in the recycling bin, thereby contaminating it.

Plastic film bin expansion and educational campaign:

After noting from the waste audits that plastic film items were one of the most common contaminants in the conventional recycling stream, the Eco-Reps and OOS recycling team embarked upon a plastic film recycling educational campaign. This involved a range of efforts, including but not limited to:

A plastic film specialty recycling bin
  • Starting a new plastic film specialty recycling bin at the Boston campus (currently on hiatus during COVID)
  • Creating new audience-specific plastic film recycling signage (a general sign, a mail room sign, and a sign for the Dining Center kitchens catered to their specific items)
  • Fielding staff and faculty Eco-Ambassador requests for new bins in select spots
  • Creating and sharing social media and newsletter content educating about plastic film and the specialty recycling program
  • Eco-Reps put out “pop-up” plastic film recycling collection bins in the residence halls

How can I recycle plastic film at Tufts?

Plastic film items include soft plastics such as grocery bags, bubble wrap, plastic padded-envelopes, air pillows, and even bread, cereal, and produce bags.

Our general plastic film recycling sign.

These items cannot be conventionally recycled because they get tangled in the machinery at the sorting facility. This can shut things down, costing time and money and posing a safety hazard to the people working at the facility. Watch this video to learn more about the hazards that plastic film poses when placed in the conventional recycling bin.

Reducing waste is a great away to avoid this problem, such as through using reusable bags instead of grocery bags. However, if you do find yourself with a plastic film item, specialty recycling it at Tufts or at your local grocer is a great way to divert it from the landfill!

Though the plastic film specialty recycling program was paused at Tufts due to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as of February 2021, the program is back up and running. Learn more about what to recycle on our webpage and find specialty recycling bin locations on our Eco-Map.

What happens when I recycle plastic film at Tufts?

Here’s how the full process works:

  1. Tufts community member drops their plastic film items into a plastic film specialty recycling bin on campus
  2. The Office of Sustainability’s specialty recycling intern services the bins on a regular schedule, taking the plastic film to a local grocer accepting plastic film in partnership with Trex
  3. Trex picks up the film from the grocery store. They clean and grind the film into granules and combine and heat it with sawdust. The resulting mixture is formed into boards.
  4. Plastic film is recycled into eco-friendly decking, benches, and other outdoor living products! You can learn more about this process from Trex here.
The circular economy and product transformation of plastic film recycled at Tufts.

Trash Talk November: Recycling and Environmental Justice

What does recycling have to do with environmental justice? Turns out, a lot! This month, we decided to explore the intersections between recycling and waste, environmental racism, and justice. Read on to find out what we learned.

Part 1: Landfills and Plastic Production Plants

How are recycling and waste connected to environmental justice? Part 1: Landfills and Plastic Production Plants
How are recycling and waste connected to environmental justice? Part 1: Landfills and Plastic Production Plants
When we throw something in the trash, it goes to a landfill or incinerator.

Landfills release methane, the most potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.
Unlike landfills, waste-to-energy incinerators burn the waste for energy, thereby reducing emissions.

Similar to landfills, however, incinerators still have negative impacts on the environment and human health.
Landfills and incinerators are disproportionately located in low income and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities, and have negative public health impacts on these communities.
Plastic Production Plants: Plastic production plants are petrochemical facilities that use fossil fuels and emit toxic chemicals into the air, soil, and water.
Both surrounding residents and workers at these plants are at high risk of contracting respiratory disease, cancer, or other illness.

Like landfills and incinerators, plastic production plants are disproportionately located in low-income and BIPOC communities.
Waste reduction and recycling are forms of environmental justice.

Reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills and incinerators by making smart purchasing decisions that avoid trash items, and even better: refuse to buy into the waste system all together and say no to plastic.

Part 2: Recycling Workers

How are recycling and waste connected to environmental justice? Part 2: Recycling Workers
Recycling is a glamorous topic in the world of sustainability, but we don’t often think about the dirty underbelly. When we throw something away, it doesn’t just go “poof” and disappear. It goes somewhere, and from landfills to sorting facilities, there is someone on the other end of our waste!
When contaminants end up in the recycling bin, they can get caught in the machinery at the sorting facility, shutting it down, costing money, and posing a safety hazard to the workers who sort them out at the conveyer belt. Such contaminants include wires, hoses, and any soft plastics such as grocery bags.
Additionally, placing sharp items into the recycling bin can pose a hazard to custodial staff, who are not expecting it when handling the bags.
What does this mean for us? For the safety of our recycling and waste workers, who are often members of the communities that we advocate for, avoid contaminating the recycling stream. Know your local recycling rules, and when in doubt about whether something can be recycled, throw it out!

Part 3: Where does Trash from Tufts Go?

Part 3: Where does Trash from Tufts go?
Proximity to waste facilities increases the vulnerability of communities. We decided to learn more about the people and places near where trash from Tufts goes.
The majority of Tufts’ trash goes to the Covanta Haverfill Facility, a waste-to-energy facility.

Waste-to-energy facilities burn waste for energy and are preferable to landfills. Covanta Haverfull is committed to sustainable waste management.

Still, the incineration process pollutes nearby communities with toxins that diminish health.
In the area surrounding the facility:
44% of residents identify as a racial minority
34% of residents are low-income
17% of adults have less than a high school education
17% of households are linguistically isolated
Reducing waste and choosing to recycle your recyclable items lessens the impact Tufts has on these communities.

What will you do to reduce waste, starting today?

Part 4: Massachusetts Landfills and their Communities

Recycling and Environmental Justice Part 4: Massachusetts Landfills and their communities
Graphic depicts the locations of active landfills in Massachusetts, Environmental Justice communities in Massachusetts, and the geographical relation between the two.
Graphic depicts a close-up of the destinations of Tufts’ trash and their relation to Environmental Justice communities.
As defined by MassGIS, EJ communities meet one or all of the following conditions:
-Greater than 25% minority population (M)
-Median income less than or equal to 65% of state median income (I)
-greater than 25% of the population is English-isolated, meaning no person over the age of 14 speaks English “very well” in a household (E)

Trash to Treasures: Closing the Loop During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Kristen Kaufman and Carly Thibodeau

What we do, and why it’s important

Desk lamps at the Back to School Sale

When students move out of college campuses, they discard items they do not need or want anymore, most of them in good reusable condition. To prevent tons (literally- Tons!) of salvageable waste from ending up in landfills and incinerators, the Office of Sustainability (OOS) facilitates a campus reuse economy through our Trash to Treasures program.

This includes collecting donations during Move Out in the spring and giving them back to students during fall Move-In through our Back to School Sale. To make this happen, we collaborate with a range of campus partners, including Facilities, the Office of Residential Life and Learning, and the FIRST Resource Center.

“Closing the Loop” (also sometimes called “Cradle to Cradle”) is the idea of moving from a linear production system to a circular system. In the traditional linear economy, products are made, used, and then disposed of— often in landfills, which can be harmful sources of pollution to their local environments and communities. Products are born, and when they are disposed of, they “die” (“Cradle to Grave”). In a circular system, items are reused or transformed to be reborn again. So, rather than moving in a line from creation straight to a landfill, products complete a full circle of being made, used, and then used or remade again.

Collecting Move Out donations

In the midst of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the move-out program went a little differently this year. Despite challenges, it was a success! Read more about 2020’s March Move-out madness and our impromptu May Move Out Day here.

Gearing up for the Back to School Sale

At the end of the spring semester and our May Move Out Day, we were eager to enjoy the summer outdoors. But alas, treasure calls! After a few months to decompress, in August we kicked back into gear to organize the sale.

As the pandemic raged on, the first step was to develop protocol for how to safely plan and run the sale. We contacted, the one-stop-shop for questions about COVID and Tufts, to develop guidelines for if and how we could safely run the sale.

Once we had our protocol, we hired on-call student recycling workers to help prepare the sale. This included 9 student recycling workers, who worked a total of 92 hours over 10 shifts that spanned a week-long period. Though the donations had been sitting in storage untouched for most of the summer (so that any virus would have died), we provided student recycling workers with access to a range of PPE items, including gloves, aprons, goggles, and tongs. In addition to wearing masks as required, most workers also opted to wear gloves. Hand sanitizer was also made available.

The first thing we did as a team was sort all of the donations we’d collected. We had already initiated a rough sorting system at the end of Move Out when we counted and weighed the donation items to gather data on each donation category. Now, however, it was time to be a little more thoughtful. We sharpened the categories into sub-categories, turning broad categories such as kitchenware and toiletries into sub-categories such as keurigs and pots, or feminine hygiene products and shower caddies. In doing so, we identified items that were either broken or of such poor quality that they were not salvageable and discarded of them.

The home decor section of our sale

As we cleaned, sorted, and even laundered items (thanks to Event and Conference Services for lending us their van!), we began to think strategically about which categories should go where. Our space was the second floor of 550 Boston Ave, where there are a few different rooms—some were small and office-sized and some were large and open. Together we created a map and began setting everything up in its spot. The student recycling workers were a great help for this—some even had retail experience and were able to creatively arrange our items for a polished store appearance.

For photos of this year’s sale, view our Flickr album.

Running the Sale

While preparing donations, we made a plan and timeline for the sale. Scheduling was tricky. Due to COVID, students were arriving to campus in waves: one wave for out-of-region students, and then another wave for in-region students two weeks later, after out-of-region students had been tested and were out of quarantine. We decided to open in two waves based on the move-in and quarantine schedule. Similar to 2019, we opened up the sale exclusively for FIRST Resource Center students first and gave almost everything away. Only on the last day of the last wave did we price items more expansively and open up for the rest of the Tufts student body. 

Once all the donations were set up for the sale, the campus planner came to assess the space. We marked the floors for social distancing and determined both the COVID-safe building capacity as well as the capacity for individual rooms. The student recycling workers spent the final day making signs for the sale categories and sections, room occupancy, and social distancing markers.

Finally, it was time to open! Eco-Reps helped to greet students and run the sale. At the entrance to the sale, all students were required to show us a negative COVID test result from Tufts to confirm they had been approved to leave quarantine. To ensure the sale was as equitable as possible given the scheduling challenges and restraints, we restricted shoppers to one item from each category so that folks who could not attend until a later date would still have a wide selection of items to choose from.

The first two days were packed, and due to limited building capacity and COVID-restrictions, we had students waiting in a social distanced line outside that curled around the building and up Boston Ave. Subsequent days were slower with a trickle of students throughout our open hours. Overall, we had about 260 shoppers in attendance!

Wrapping things up (metaphorically speaking)

By the last day of the sale, it was amazing to see how few items were left! At noon, almost all remaining items became free and the sale opened up to the larger Tufts community.

School supplies. Some Medford community members we freecycled to were school teachers.

Afterwards, we tried something new: remaining items were either donated to Goodwill or freecycled via the “Everything is Free Medford” Facebook page. Freecycling is a great way to give away unneeded items to people who will make use of them, diverting them from the landfill! We gave away a range of items to Medford residents and calculated the value for Community Relations; check out our free-cycling totals here. For more information about freecycling at Tufts, visit our reuse page.

Winter Clothing Drive

Instead of freecycling, the OOS held on to remaining winter and professional clothes, bedding and sheets, and books. These items had been collected in separate streams for FIRST, and the plan was to make them available to FIRST students later in the semester.

In mid-December, the OOS met with Tufts’ Director of Infectious Disease Control, Michael Jordan, to discuss how to safely distribute remaining items to students in need of them amidst the worsening pandemic.

With enhanced guidelines in place, the OOS was able to collaborate with Tufts Mutual Aid to host a winter clothing giveaway for FIRST Resource Center students, international students on financial aid, and any other student in need of winter clothes. A great textile upcycling opportunity, students browsed our jackets, hats, scarves, and sweaters just in time for the holiday break. Students also had the opportunity to browse through our remaining selection of sheets and books.

Remaining clothes were donated or recycled through our Bay State Textile bins and remaining books and textbooks were donated to Boston-area non-profit More Than Words.

Reflections on closing the loop

After all was said and done, we were able to divert the 10 tons of donations we collected in the spring from landfills and incinerators and put them to good use by new owners. That’s the equivalent of 10 Jumbos!

In addition to serving an environmental purpose, the program is beneficial from economic and social perspectives. The redistribution of items helps students save money and learn about the reuse economy. The University also saves money on hefty waste disposal fees typical during a Move-Out season. The process additionally promotes social sustainability: redistribution of items for the community from the community contributes to the interconnectedness and resilience of the Tufts community, along with the well-being of its individual members.

Through the hard work of the OOS, student workers and donators, and collaborating departments across the University, we were able to close the loop and turn trash into treasure.

Move-Out in the Age of Coronavirus

A rainy day at the Lower Campus Move Out Station at Haskell Hall by Latin Way.

A Sudden Twist: Gearing up for a March Move Out

Each year, the Office of Sustainability (OOS) runs a robust donation collection program throughout the month of May, when students are moving out, finals are done, the air is warm, and folks are gearing up for their summer internships.

Student Move Out this year was anything but normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It came as a surprise to everyone when the University announced on the evening of March 10th that all students would have to move entirely out of their on-campus residence halls by 3:00 pm on March 16th.

The OOS’s annual donation program serves to divert good items from the landfill and to instead provide them to students and community members who will use them. Even in light of early Move-Out, we still wanted to maintain our sustainability values and help the Tufts community and its neighbors.

Due to the pandemic, the first step was to consult with a health expert at Tufts about whether it would be safe to collect donations at all and if so, what. There were select items that we could not collect this year because we could not sanitize them or because they are not high demand and there was limited time/capacity.  

Still, our entire office—from staff to recycling interns to communications interns—rallied together and made some magic happen. In the first day after the Move-Out announcement was made, we quickly created a donation station schedule, recruited and hired workers to help, rented vehicles, planned donation rules and two donation collection stations, ordered supplies, and secured a space for donation storage. Facilities quickly requested open top dumpsters to be placed around campus to accommodate the increased trash flow.

Early Move Out In-Action: New and Improved Collaborations

We even tried something new: due to the short notice, we were not able to get the trailers that we normally use to collect textiles. Instead, we collaborated with the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL) to provide blue bags to students in residence hall lobbies, which they could use to store their clothing donations and leave them in their rooms, along with mini fridges labeled as donations. We also provided clear and black liners that students could use to take their recycling and trash out to the dumpsters and leave the space clean for the custodians.

Another pleasant surprise was a new collaboration with the Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative (TFRC). The TFRC was working with multicultural offices and Tufts Mutual Aid to create a food pantry available to the Tufts community during this difficult time (and when many store shelves were empty!). We collected almost 1,000 lbs of non-perishable food donations for the pantry.

Over the course of the week, we hired 30 student workers to help during the day and evening. Most were students who lived off-campus, had some free time due to extended spring break, and had discontinued jobs or internships. The donations program would not have been possible without the workers: they were patient, independent, and good-spirited (even in the cold!).

With their help, we were able to not only run the stations for long hours, but also to transport all donations to our storage space and sort them into categories there. Some of them even came with us to retrieve donations from the residence halls on the Health Sciences and SMFA campuses in Boston. We were lucky that we already had enough gloves and other PPE in storage before COVID-19, and that our workers were both social distancing warriors and heavy-lifting champions.

A Job Well Done (and a nap for all!)

A truck on a city street

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Morning time at the Upper Campus Donation Station in the Carmichael Parking Lot.

In the end, we diverted 6.42 tons (12,833 lbs) of donations from the landfills during Early Move Out. These donations will be provided to FIRST Resource Center students, the general Tufts student body, and/or to local non-profits/charities.

The quick planning it took to make this happen was not possible without collaboration from our office’s staff and interns, Facilities, TUPD, Auxillary Services, The Office of Residential Life and Learning, the FIRST Resource Center, the Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative, and campus’s hardworking custodial staff.

Early Move Out by the Numbers

We collected 6.42 tons (12,833 lbs) during March, including:

  • 303 lbs of sanitation/health items
  • 3,291 lbs of food and kitchen items/appliances
  • 1,786 lbs of home supplies such as vacuums, mirrors, lamps, and storage bins
  • 5,683 lbs of clothes
  • 881 lbs of furniture
  • 50 lbs of miscellaneous items

Student workers hired: 30

Total student hours worked: 267.5

Total last-minute rentals: 1 U-Haul box-truck, 1 U-Haul van, 2 U-pods

Total last-minute purchases: 1 Facebook ad, 6 rolls of packing tape, and granola bars!

Total acquisitions: We attained 6 sandbags—very handy to put in the donation collection bins on windy/rainy days. (Thanks Facilities!)

Total handy reuse strategies: We can’t forget about the 2 gaylords we had in storage from last year, or the 10 slim jims that we used as donation collection bins at the donation stations (we had attempted to order cardboard boxes for 1-day delivery, but they never arrived). We were also able to reuse donation items to organize our supplies and donations.

Total signs: We used or created 15 types of signs: 9 different signs for each of the donation collection streams, 1 for U-Pods (students could leave donations in there overnight), 1 yard sign for the upper campus donation station, 1 for the lower, 1 yard sign directing folks to dumpsters, 1 banner for recycling dumpsters, and 1 banner for trash dumpsters.

Total social media posts: 1 blog post, 2 Instagram/Twitter/FB posts, an Instagram story takeover, and a Move Out email to students from ORLL.

And finally: 1 wild 70-hour work week from our Recycling Coordinator!

A group of people standing in a room

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Specialty Recycling Intern turned Move Out worker collects donations from a student.

Update: May Move Out Day!

Despite Early Move-Out, some juniors and seniors stayed in their off campus apartments to finish off the academic year. As the end of May–and a lease-period–drew near, two of our interns, Serena and Elyssa, became aware of how many items they would have to put into trash dumpsters as they and their housemates moved out, especially with public donation venues closed due to the COVID-19.

At their initiative, we were able to organize a one-time May donation collection station for remaining students. The event was organized in just a day and announced online. A few dozen students came, masks and all, to donate their textbooks, fans, toaster ovens, excess cleaning supplies, entire dish-ware sets, storage units, and mini-fridges!

In just a 4-hour window, we collected an additional 894 lbs. We also collected 6,845 additional pounds of Move Out textile donations during May, bringing our 2020 Move Out total to 20,572.25 lbs and 10.29 tons!