Blog Post

On April 16, RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks) hosted the 2020 Spring WasteWise Forum as a webinar, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The focus of the virtual Forum, which was originally planned as an in-person event at Brandeis University, was on “Back to Basics”.  The forum provided facility managers with the information and tools necessary to establish and manage effective solid waste, recycling, and organics diversion programs, with an emphasis on reducing contamination.

Click on the photo to view presentations and listen to a recording of the webinar.

Welcome and Updates

Click on each presenter’s name to view their presentation slides.

  • John Fischer, Deputy Division Director for Solid Waste Materials Management at MassDEP, provided updates on MassDEP guidance for COVID-19 and the status of the 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan. Fischer discussed how the plan, which is in final stages of review, includes proposed waste bans of mattresses and textiles, in addition to reducing the commercial organics waste ban threshold from 1 ton to ½ ton per week. The Reduce & Reuse Workgroup, another priority in the Master Plan, provides an opportunity for Massachusetts stakeholders to contribute input on strategies that promote source reduction, reuse, and repair.
  • Christine Beling, Project Engineer for EPA Region 1, gave a brief overview of the WasteWise and Food Recovery Challenge programs. Beling announced the 2019 National WasteWise Awards Winners in Massachusetts. Congratulations to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of Boston, Partner of the Year in the Non-Profit Organization Category, and Home Market Foods of Norwood, Honorable Mention in the Small Business Category!

RecyclingWorks Program Overview, New Resources, and Technical Content

Next, RecyclingWorks offered information and guidance to help businesses and institutions evaluate their existing waste diversion programs. Abbey Massaro highlighted a few new RecyclingWorks resources and described the different types of equipment for recycling, organics, and trash collection. Heather Billings shared tools and recommendations for effective employee training that reinforces the importance of reducing contamination in recycling and organics collection programs. A few of the key takeaways include:

  • Right-sizing your collection equipment can take time. Work with your hauler to determine what is best for your facility, and evaluate the flow of materials to ensure that internal collection containers can be easily emptied into their appropriate dumpster or cart.
  • Consider additional methods to reduce contamination and increase program efficiency, including color-coding and restricted openings for collection containers.
  • Provide all employees with clear instruction on how to sort materials in the appropriate bin. Educate staff through clear signage, social media, newsletters, and other communication methods. Become a Recycle Smart Partner and receive additional tools to promote correct recycling.
  • Provide custodial staff and other materials movers with a facility waste management plan to complement regular training sessions on waste programs.

Contamination Grading System and Quiz

RecyclingWorks staff concluded the event with an interactive quiz using an informal recycling contamination grading system to evaluate contamination from incorrectly sorted items and soiled materials. Attendees were challenged to use their knowledge and understanding of contamination to grade various recycling, organics, or trash bins. This grading system and quiz can be used at your facility to evaluate signage, training, and program logistics to improve the quality of each waste stream as you observe and classify contamination in your recycling and organics programs.

Please note that the grading system was created based on conversations with one materials recovery facility in Massachusetts, and may not apply to all businesses and institutions. Communicate with your hauler to learn about specific contamination thresholds or potential added fees.

The contamination grading system and quiz can be used as an informal training tool for your custodial staff.

Visit the RecyclingWorks WasteWise webpage to view all of the 2020 Spring WasteWise Forum presentations and a full recording of the webinar. To learn more about the national WasteWise program or to join WasteWise, please contact Janet Bowen at or visit the EPA’s website. By registering, you will also be enrolled in the Massachusetts WasteWise program.

RecyclingWorks is currently offering remote technical assistance, including virtual site visits, evaluating bin placement and hauler contracts, customizing waste bin signage, reviewing training and educational materials, and giving presentations to facility staff. Call the RecyclingWorks hotline, (888) 254-5525, or email us at to get started.