On May 1, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital hosted RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks), the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the 2019 Spring WasteWise Forum. These forums are attended by recycling and sustainability coordinators, facility managers, and professionals in the recycling industry, and are particularly useful for networking and discussion. This year’s spring forum focused on source reduction strategies that consider the end-life of materials, minimize packaging, and reduce the disposal of single-use materials.
Welcome and Updates
The event began with a welcome from Margaret Vasquez, Director of Nutrition and Food Services at Spaulding Research Hospital. Vasquez was followed by brief presentations from the US EPA, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), and RecyclingWorks. Click on each presenter’s name to view their presentation slides.
- Robert Guillemin, Federal Green Challenge coordinator at the US EPA, discussed the trends in food waste disposal, and the impacts that different diversion strategies have on greenhouse gas emissions. Guillemin highlighted the importance of preventing food waste at the source, which dramatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions when compared not only to disposal, but also to other diversion strategies such as composting and anaerobic digestion
- John Fischer, Branch Chief of Commercial Waste Reduction and Waste Planning at the MassDEP, spoke about two MassDEP funding programs that are increasing capacity for recycling and encouraging waste reduction across the state. He provided an update on the Solid Waste Master Plan for 2020-2030, and encouraged businesses and institutions to sign up as a Recycle Smart partner. Fischer shared the following source reduction strategies that the MassDEP is considering to help achieve the state’s annual waste disposal reduction goal of 2 million tons per year:
- Leveraging initiatives to reduce packaging waste
- Promoting “sharing economy” strategies
- Implementing residential source reduction linked to PAYT
- Fostering “right to repair” information sharing
- Developing a commercial food waste source reduction initiative
- Leveraging procurement to reduce commercial & institutional waste
- Renewing emphasis on resource management contracting
- Banning single use plastic bags and food service packaging
- Lauren Potter, RecyclingWorks Program Lead, discussed the services available through the RecyclingWorks program, such as free technical assistance for businesses and institutions and dozens of inspiring case studies. She also previewed several new resources, such as the webpage focused on Business and Institutional Furniture and Office Equipment Reuse Guidance, as well as a recently developed graphic illustrating simple strategies to reduce plastic bag contamination in the recycling stream.
Presentations on Strategies for Source Reduction of Waste
Representatives from three Massachusetts organizations presented on their procurement strategies and partnerships that aim to reduce waste.
- Raytheon Company’s environmental program manager Mary M. Strzempko and Environmental and Sustainability Lead Irina Calante presented on the company’s resource management program, which has largely focused on preventing the generation of waste at their facilities. In 2018, Raytheon committed to align all of their sites with the Total Resource Use and Efficiency (TRUE) Zero Waste certification, which provides a framework for the company to define, pursue, and achieve zero waste goals. Certifications such as TRUE encourage businesses to quantify the impact of waste prevention, as well as gain public recognition for their efforts. The success of Raytheon’s waste reduction program depends on strong partnerships with its vendors. Some examples of these partnerships include:
- Haas, Clean Harbors, Vallen, and ERI provide reusable shipping containers, drums, and pallets that reduce the need for new packaging materials and help divert waste from the trash.
- The company works with Eurest to source compostable serviceware, and utilizes the Waste Not tool developed for Eurest’s Owner’s Management Suite (OMS) to measure and track daily food waste in the cafeteria kitchen.
- Raytheon sources their office materials using Staples Environmentally Preferred Products, which works with them to reduce excess packaging.
- Kimberly-Clark’s RightCycle program takes back nitrile gloves, safety glasses, and lab apparel for recycling.
- Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s Environmental Health and Safety Officer, Kathy Driscoll, presented ideas for minimizing waste that the state college has implemented, and that can be easily replicable in many office settings. Kathy shared strategies to eliminate difficult-to-recycle packaging, and how the college communicates opportunities for the reuse of office supplies among staff.
- Oxfam America’s Development Associate, Sarah Cook, concluded the session by sharing the non-profit’s own waste reduction strategies. She described Oxfam’s transition from physical newsletters to digital versions, the Sustainable Champions program that designates sustainably-minded employees to motivate their peers to participate in waste reduction and recycling, and various procurement decisions the company has made to favor buying in bulk rather than single use containers.
After a lively networking break, RecyclingWorks representative Lauren Potter facilitated an interactive discussion that explored topics related to accurately matching materials to end-site, minimizing packaging, reuse and take-back programs, creating environmentally preferable product procurement programs, and the source reduction of food waste. The panelists included each of the presenters, as well as RecyclingWorks technical expert Heather Billings. Here are some of the main takeaways from the discussion:
- Many programs incorporate the Triple Bottom Line accounting framework when evaluating the costs and benefits of implementing a recycling or waste reduction program. Sustainability and facility managers often use this approach when putting together a solid business case for internal funding of waste reduction programs.
- When dealing with construction and remodeling projects, it is critical to have a member of the company’s sustainability committee involved in the facilities decision process to ensure sustainability and waste reduction opportunities are considered.
- Oxfam addresses the logistical concerns of implementing an office reuse program by adding ownership for staff to make sure the kitchen remains clean, and provides basic employee training on organizational reuse practices during orientation.
- In order to make smart purchasing decisions, it is important to know the end site for where your materials will go after disposal. Businesses and institutions should consult the Recycle Smart MA Recyclopedia to learn what materials are commonly accepted for mixed recycling and what materials can be recycled if collected separately.
Visit the RecyclingWorks WasteWise webpage to access the presentations and panel discussion recording. To learn more about the national WasteWise program or to join WasteWise, please contact Janet Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the EPA’s website. By registering you will also be enrolled in the Massachusetts WasteWise program.
RecyclingWorks is a recycling assistance program designed to help businesses and institutions maximize recycling, reuse, and composting opportunities. Call the RecyclingWorks hotline (888) 254-5525 or email us at email@example.com to learn more.