How to be a Smart Recycler

Massachusetts residents have long been known to recycle – in fact, a 2015 Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) report shows that nearly 95% of MA residents say they recycle on a regular basis! In the spirit of the new school year and starting fresh, we have some tips and tools on how to recycle even better and smarter in your home, business, or community.

What’s the deal with contamination?

You may have heard through the grapevine that there is a problem with contamination in our recycling industry. Contamination occurs when incorrect items are put in the recycling bin or sorted wrong. Down the line, this can lead to machinery malfunctions, increases in recycling costs, and unsafe work environments for the 13,000 MA employees working in the industry. This video shows the process of where your recyclables go after placed in your bin. When recyclables are contaminated, entire truckloads can be thrown away. The challenges of contamination have led to the implementation of China’s National Sword Policy. Some common contaminants include plastic bags and films, food waste, Styrofoam, and hazardous waste.

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What is the National Sword?

By Kevin Pink, Program Specialist

What is the National Sword?

You may have heard the phrases “national sword” or “green sword” in the news lately. It is a policy in China that has banned the importation of certain types of solid waste, as well as set strict contamination limits on recyclable materials. This means that China will not accept shipments that are mixed with trash, the wrong type of recyclable, or low-quality recyclables like greasy paper goods. The policy was announced in July 2017, and the ban officially began January 1, 2018. In addition to the bans, China is reducing the number of import licenses, meaning that fewer businesses will be able to import waste.

Why does it matter?

China has been the world’s biggest importer of waste for decades. China has imported paper, plastic, and scrap metal from other nations and processed these materials for reuse in the products they produce for export. However, the implementation of National Sword has reduced the rate at which these materials are imported. This has created significant logjams in the international recycling system, resulting in recycled material piling up at materials recycling facilities (MRFs) or worse, into landfills. This is effecting recycling efforts in the United States and abroad.

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Learn How to Implement a Source Separation Program in Your School Cafeteria

The GREEN TEAM is a joint program of the Center for EcoTechnology and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) that empowers students and teachers to help the environment through waste reduction, recycling, composting, energy conservation, and pollution prevention.

The GREEN TEAM recently released an instructional video on source separation in school cafeterias. Source separation is a system by which organic material and recyclables are collected separately from the trash. This system makes recycling and diverting organic waste easier, which makes it more likely to be done. Recyclable material is then recycled and made into new products, and organic matter is composted, used to feed animals, or turned into energy through anaerobic digestion.

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Spring Clean Your House: Reuse and Recycle Your Old Furniture!

By Avery Cross, Green Business Fellow

trash heap

According to the EPA, approximately 8.5 million tons of furniture waste is sent to landfills each year, even though many of these items are still usable, either as parts or as a whole. With limited landfill capacity – that’s an incredible waste of space! Additionally, throwing out furniture for disposal demands more energy and resources as new furniture is produced and transported to replace it – emitting associated greenhouse gasses in the process. Rather than sending unwanted furniture to the landfill, we can reuse and recycle it.

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What is the Zero Waste Lifestyle?

Go Zero Waste with a Reusable Water BottleBy Morgan O’Connor, Marketing & High Performance Building EcoFellow

Zero Waste is a movement to reduce the amount one consumes and consequently throws away. Adopting a Zero Waste lifestyle is one of the most sustainable ways of living. Zero Waste lifestyle choices influence all environmental areas by preventing resource extraction, reducing the amount of materials sent to the landfill or incinerator, and reducing pollution from producing, transporting, or disposing of materials.

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