Category: Waste (page 1 of 14)

New Recycling Rules For Cleaner Recyclables

Please follow the recycling rules

Recently, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released new recycling guidelines, with some major changes as is outlined below. Read more about the new rules here: https://recyclesmartma.org/

Recyclables that are contaminated with non-recyclables may end up in the landfill due to excess contamination. Due to recent changes in the recycling industry as outlined in our other blog post, it is especially important that we work to limit contamination of recyclable materials.

Recycled materials are a  traded commodity. If contaminated, however, no one will be willing to purchase them, and they will instead likely end up in the landfill.

Plastic and paper cups are no longer accepted

The biggest change is that plastic cups (even clear ones), as well as utensils and paper coffee cups, are no longer recyclable. That’s right – the plastic and cups you get your cold beverages in will now have to go directly into the landfill waste bin in addition to the straw and lid.

The main problem is that these items tend to be spoiled with liquids and food. These items can then contaminate other materials in the recycling bin, such as paper. As a result, our recycling service provider is no longer accepting these products in our recycling stream.

For plastic items, ONLY plastic containers – jugs, bottles (with caps ON), tubs, and jars will be accepted, once rinsed and dried.

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)

  • 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.

4 Ways To Eliminate Plastic From Your Life

 

According to a National Geographic article, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been created since manufacturing of the material began six decades ago. The article also estimates that 91% of all plastic consumed around the world is not recycled.

As you may have seen on social media,  many people have attempted to avoid using plastic products completely for the month of July, as a part of Plastic-Free July. Although July is coming to an end, that does not mean that we should abandon the effort to reduce our plastic consumption.

Here are just a few small changes you can make to reduce your consumption of plastic on a daily basis:

Ditch Bottled Beverages and Disposable Cups:

According to a 2017 article, “a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.”  That comes down to around 20,000 plastic bottles every second! Not only is using a reusable mug or water bottle a great way to reduce plastic consumption, it may also save you some money. Many coffee shops and other stores offer discounts to those who bring their own bottles and mugs.

Bring Your Own Bag

As with reusable mugs and bottles, bringing your own reusable bag to grocery stores often gets you a discount. To take a step further, you can also purchase reusable mesh bags for produce instead of using the plastic bags available in the produce section of grocery stores.

Buy In Bulk

Buying in bulk is not always feasible if you do not have many mouths to feed in your home. As an alternative, many grocery stores have bulk sections where you can purchase items like grains, nuts, spices and dried fruits from bulk bins in the exact quantities that you need. Bringing your own container and measuring out the exact amount of an item you need is a great way to eliminate both packaging waste and food waste – because are you really going to use up that large container of cardamom you bought to make curry that one time?

Use Reusable Utensils

Whenever possible, try bringing your own utensils and plates to events and meetings where food may be served. For packed lunches, you could invest in a reusable sandwich or snack bag to replace single-use plastic bags. You could even try out beeswax wrap, an alternative to plastic wrap!

Boston Campus Zero Waste Picnic

Another president’s picnic, this time on the Boston campus! Although it was forecast to rain, we luckily didn’t feel a single drop throughout the duration of the event.

As with all of our zero waste events, all of the trash bins normally available in the green space next to the Jaharis Building for Biomedical and Nutrition Sciences on the Boston campus were covered so that attendees would not be able to use them.

Something that was different about this particular zero waste event was that everything given to the attendees including cups, plates, utensils, and napkins were all completely compostable. While we usually have both recycling and composting toters at our zero waste events, at this event we simply needed to direct people to place all their used items and leftover food into the compost.

Michelle with the free reusable sandwich bag she got for bringing her own place setting!

As has become tradition, we handed out free sandwich bags to the lucky first 50 people who came to the Office of Sustainability’s table with their own reusable place settings from home (or from their office!).

President Monaco picking the raffle winner!

 

Additionally, everyone who brought a component of a reusable place setting was invited to enter our raffle. President Monaco picked the lucky winner, Dorothy Vannah, the director of the Simulation Learning Center at Tufts School of Dental Medicine.

The lucky winner with her new lunchbox!

In addition to handing out flyers about commuting benefits and becoming an Eco-Ambassador, we also had Michelle Lee-Bravatti, a second-year graduate student at the Friedman School help spread the word about the new composting program at the Boston campus that she initiated this past spring. Not only are there composting bins in several locations throughout the Boston campus, individual offices can also inquire about getting an office composting bin. Be sure to contact michelle.lee_bravatti@tufts.edu for more information.

Next week, we’ll be in Grafton for the final President’s Picnic of the year!

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.

 

 

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