Category: Waste (page 3 of 14)

Speciality Recycling and Waste

At Tufts, we have collection sites for specialty recycling from batteries to textiles to sneakers to E-Waste! It is extremely important for these products to be recycled and diverted from the waste stream to be repurposed, as this prevents toxic landfill leakage from re-entering the environment  and reduces extractive mining and processing needs both of which harm local community health.

Much of these specialty recycling items can be categorized as universal waste, which includes four general categories: batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and lamps.  All of these items are regulated by the federal government and must be disposed of in ways that meet federal standards.

To recycle batteries, we need to take some precautions. All alkaline batteries and non-lithium ion batteries must have their terminals taped with clear tape to avoid a potential fire hazard during transportation. Lithium-ion batteries should be collected in a separate bin. There are blue and white bins around campus where you can drop off your old batteries. Batteries are considered regulated waste and must be diverted from the regular waste stream to follow federal regulations.

Tufts also has special yellow toters around campus for composting, a great way to reduce the amount of waste we produce. According to the EPA, almost a quarter of municipal waste in landfills is food waste, which easily could be avoided through composting. We even have tips for making composting in your dorm and off-campus apartment easy and intuitive.

Recently, Tufts implemented a textile-recycling program on campus, with four locations listed on the Tufts Eco-Map. In these bins, you can drop off any and all used textiles, including clothes, towels, bedding, even tennis shoes. These items will either be sold as is or repurposed and sold as new products. Specialty recycling is a great way to get items that would typically be thrown away out of landfills.

Remember to:

E-Waste

E-waste stands for electronic waste: all electronic products that we no longer use either because they no longer work or the technology is outdated. This includes laptops, desktop computers and monitors, cell phones, televisions, printers and fax machines, and all the smaller parts that come with them. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 60 million metric tons of e-waste enter US landfills each year, leaking harmful chemicals and making up 70% of the toxic waste in these landfills.

Fortunately, we can recycle these products instead of throwing them into landfills. They all contain useful resources, including glass, metals, plastics, and various minerals, that can be reused and diverted from the waste stream. Using the Tufts Eco-Map, you can locate collection sites to drop off your e-waste to make sure you are recycling it in a safe, effective way for both people and the environment. For more information about how to properly dispose of your e-waste visit the Tufts Facilities site.

Find more information about E-Waste from these informative articles:

China’s National Sword

via GIPHY

Recycling is complicated. Most people see their recyclables taken off of their curbs each week and think that it’s the end of the process, but really it is just the beginning:

  1. From there, the recyclables are taken to a recycling sorting center, where all of the plastics, papers, and metals are sorted and packaged together with like materials.
  2. Then the recyclables are sold to manufacturers domestically and internationally on a commodities market.

The above video shows how mixed recycling is sorted.

The Changing Recycling Market in China

Some recyclables end up in China since it is the largest importer of recyclables from around the world. China uses these raw materials to drive their manufacturing based economy. The U.S.—China recycling relationship began when China sent over cargo ships full of exports to the U.S. and instead of sending those ships back to China empty, the U.S. began sending back discarded recyclables.

Beginning in 2013, China began regulating what recyclables were coming into the country, because historically most of the recycled materials that were sent to China were unsorted, contaminated with non-recyclable materials, and contained hazardous waste. The 2013 policy was known as the Green Fence and random inspections of shipments of recyclables began. The country began to reject shipments if they were contaminated, thus the total amount of recycled material that China receives has declined since 2013. The newest change to recycling policy is the National Sword. In this new policy, the Chinese government has banned 24 materials and has increased the rigor of the inspections.

How does this impact Tufts?

Now trash goes in blue bags and recyclable in clear bags!

Because of the National Sword, Tufts can no longer use blue bags in the recycling bins. Blue bags are opaque and prevent the recycling sorting facility from being able to see whether they are filled with trash. Instead of throwing out our blue bags, Tufts is repurposing them.  Tufts will continue to use the blue bags for trash bags until the blue bags run out.

As consumers and recyclers alike, we all need to make sure that we are properly sorting our recycling from trash. Help us keep our recycling clean so it can actually be used again! This is the only way to ensure that the recycling facility will not reject our recycling.

Never put these items in the recycling bin:

  • Liquids
  • Food waste
  • Plastic bags

Remember these items, and nothing else, go in the recycling bin:

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Glass
  • Metal (aluminum)*
  • Rigid plastics*

* = If you have a rigid plastic or aluminum to-go container, please rinse or wipe off food waste before recycling it.

via GIPHY

For more information on recycling at Tufts visit the Facilities Services – Recycling & Waste Management website or email recycle@tufts.edu.

Solid Waste Specialist, Eastern Research Group, Inc. (Boston, MA)

This position involves supporting federal and state environmental agencies with researching solid waste policy issues, including those that pertain to municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris, and hazardous waste. The position is in ERG’s Boston office, and will start as early as October 15, 2017.

Required Skills & Qualifications:

  • One or more years of experience in municipal solid waste or relevant field of study or practice.
  • Experience researching waste management issues and initiatives, such as recycling, waste reduction, composting, lifecycle analysis, and organic waste (e.g., food waste diversion).
  • A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in environmental science, environmental policy, or related field.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills and analytical skills.

Preferred Skills & Qualifications:

  • Familiarity with biogas recovery from municipal solid waste or wastewater.
  • International experience in any relevant scientific field of study or practice.

 

Application Deadline: September 13
To Apply: e-mail your cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to john.wilhelmi@erg.com.

The Green Labs Initiative: An Overview

 

We can all have a positive impact by incorporating sustainable behaviors into our daily lives, but not all impacts are equal. At universities, laboratory settings have especially high resource and energy demand, making them important targets for sustainability initiatives. Duke University estimates that lab spaces can require five times the energy of other campus buildings. For this reason, Tufts began work on the Green Labs initiative, which aimed to increase the overall sustainability of these spaces through a variety of means.

Across all three Tufts campuses, ten labs signed up to participate in the Green Labs initiative. Emily Edwards, who coordinates chemical and bioengineering labs in the SciTech building, has long been committed to increasing the sustainability of these spaces. Her department currently runs 14 labs, researching topics from solar panel development to filtration membranes to bioengineering with mammalian cells. When she first joined the department, Edwards wanted to reduce plastic waste in her labs, which use high volumes of disposable items like pipette tips, weigh boats, gloves, and vials. However, she found this to be nearly impossible because these materials are necessary for routine lab work, and are difficult to clean for reuse. In light of this, Edwards feels that energy conservation is the most practical way to reduce the environmental footprint of her labs. She worked to address this challenge through her participation in the Green Labs initiative.

Another major participant in the initiative was Sanjukta Ghosh, a lab coordinator in the biology department. Ghosh oversees nine labs at 200 Boston Ave, researching topics like molecular biology, genetics, and bioinformatics. Her building is LEED certified, and features sustainable technologies including daylight-sensitive lighting systems and open floor plans that facilitate equipment sharing. Ghosh has an academic background in green chemistry philosophy, and has applied these sustainability concepts to her work at Tufts. She also acknowledges the environmental difficulties of lab work, which inherently creates a large plastic footprint. Ghosh has recently worked with vendors to purchase more recyclable materials including pipette tip boxes. Her labs also participate in vendor take-back programs, in which equipment manufacturers collect used items and donate or safely recycle them.

 

Fume Hoods

The single largest energy demand in lab buildings comes from chemical fume hoods, which are a staple of lab work. Fume hoods are used to protect researchers from dangerous materials or vapors by drawing contaminated air through a ventilation system. For safety reasons, these systems must run continuously 24 hours a day, whether or not they are actively being used. One energy-saving element of Variable Air Volume (VAV) fume hoods is their adjustable sash, which can be lowered or shut completely when they are not in use. This drastically reduces the energy demand of the ventilation system by slowing the fan. Many universities have designed “Shut the Sash” campaigns to educate lab personnel about the environmental benefits of this simple action.

Unfortunately for sustainability at Tufts, the vast majority of the SciTech building’s 50 VAV fume hoods have broken fan regulators, and are so old that replacement parts cannot be obtained. This means that shutting the sash on these machines does not reduce their energy demand. According to Edwards, it would be necessary to entirely replace many of the fume hoods to fix this issue, but funding is lacking. In contrast, the fume hoods in Ghosh’s labs are all equipped with automatic sashes, which use proximity sensors to open only when researchers approach. Ironically, this safety feature fails to save energy because the fume hoods at 200 Boston are not VAV, and therefore draw a constant amount of power regardless of their sash position. According to Ghosh, replacing these fume hoods with more efficient ones would cost millions of dollars.

 

Freezer Challenge

Another major energy draw for labs is refrigeration and cooling, as certain biomaterials must be stored in specialized freezers. “Ultra-low” freezers cool samples to -80 degrees Celsius (-112OF). The SciTech building has roughly eight of these ultra-low freezers in use, and Ghosh’s labs at 200 Boston have six.

Edwards and Ghosh both participated in the Freezer Challenge, a component of the Green Labs project, which set out to reduce the energy use of lab freezers. In order to operate each freezer more efficiently, a clear inventory of its contents was created, minimizing the time that the door needs to be open when searching for an item. The freezers also had to be regularly de-iced so that their doors could seal properly, keeping the heat out. Finally, it was important to remove unused items and consolidate partially full freezers, taking extra units offline when possible. At 200 Boston, old freezers have been gradually replaced with new, high-efficiency units, which use only one quarter of the power.

 

Other Initiatives

While optimizing the use of freezers and fume hoods may be the most direct way to increase efficiency, Edwards and Ghosh promote sustainability in other ways as well. Although recycling certain lab materials can be difficult, Edwards collects packing materials like Styrofoam and bubble wrap for reuse. SciTech has a dedicated recycling bin for electronics, which is used heavily when old workspaces are cleaned out. Ghosh also recycles all worn-out lab equipment, and donates functional equipment to other institutions, so virtually none of it ends up in the trash. In addition, Tufts sometimes receives donations from biotech companies, which is more sustainable and cost-effective than purchasing new equipment.

Tufts labs are making progress working towards their sustainability goals, but much work can still be done. Lab faculty, students, and administration must all collaborate to continue addressing the environmental impact of Tufts labs, thereby working towards a greener campus.

 

 

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