RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks), in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), hosted the RecyclingWorks MA Fall 2022 Forum virtually on November 9, 2022. This year’s forum focused on updates and resources to help businesses and institutions understand and comply with changes to MassDEP waste disposal bans on commercial food waste, textiles, and mattresses that took effect in Massachusetts on November 1, 2022. Over 130 businesses, institutions, service providers, nonprofit organizations, and other Massachusetts stakeholders came together to learn about the specifics of these changes, ask questions, and collaborate to find solutions.
John Fischer, Deputy Division Director for Solid Waste at MassDEP, discussed why the waste ban changes are important, how industry professionals and businesses and institutions can comply, what are some of the frequent questions and answers about the new bans, and what grant programs that support ban implementation. Fischer emphasized that MassDEP emphasizes education and outreach, rather than enforcement, during initial ban implementation. During his presentation, Fischer defined parameters for mattresses and textiles fit for recycling while also noting the varied tolerance for contamination in the recycling process. He recommended that businesses and institutions check with recyclers to see if mattresses can be accepted before assuming they are too contaminated to process. If materials are dry and free of hazardous substances, mold, pests, and odor there is likely a recycling option.
Heather Billings, Senior Environmental Specialist, and Abbey Massaro, Environmental Specialist of RecyclingWorks showcased successful textile and mattress recovery programs and shared helpful tools to streamline efforts and reduce waste. The robust RecyclingWorks website hosts a variety of resources to help businesses adapt to waste ban changes. Selected resources from the website are listed below:
- Textile Guidance
- Mattresses Guidance
- Food Waste Estimation Guide
- Find-A-Recycler Tool
- No-Cost Technical Assistance
Patrick Worley, owner and CEO of Worleybeds and co-presenter Erik Dyson, co-founder and CEO of HandUp Mattress Recycling walked attendees through their mattress recycling program. Worleybeds is a mattress manufacturer and retailer located in New Bedford. The retailer collects used mattresses and box springs from customers, keeps them dry and clean in a closed trailer and calls HandUp when the trailer is full. From there, HandUp either cleans and sanitizes the mattresses/box springs for reuse or recycles them if they are not in reusable condition. “Dyson shared, “[businesses] have to make it easy for trained employees to get things right the first time and prevent contamination… Diverting from landfill is commendable and also a great way to control cost.” Patrick Worley reiterated Dyson’s sentiment, observing that “business and consumer culture is changing. People care and consumers notice. We need to take a hard look at what the future is going to be.”
Judy Lambert, Program Director at Needham Community Council Thrift Store, and Nicole Pellagrino, Relationship Manager at Helpsy, shared their partnership story. The pair emphasized how clear systems for textile sorting with dedicated bins and trash bags have increased efficiency in textile donation. “We used to buy trash bags for $100 a month” Judy said. “Helpsy gave the bins and trash bags…We were able to get paid per pound, which has helped the bottom line. It has been incredible working with [Helpsy] and we are really proud of how we maximize the donations.”
Rebecca Burstein, Director of Brand Marketing and Creative Services of Bentley University and Ben Grossman, Founder of SwagCycle demonstrated how colleges and universities with large-scale textile disposal needs can find creative recovery solutions instead of sending out-of-date branded materials to landfill. Bentley University underwent a rebranding campaign that meant apparel and accessories with the former branding could no longer be distributed and needed to be collected from students and faculty on campus. Burstein and Grossman collaborated and “problem turned partnership.” Bentley University and SwagCycle highlighted systems that improved efficiency in the textile collection and sorting processes as they coordinated with local partners and incentivized donations. Burstein and her team are now motivated and equipped to divert these materials going forward.
Susan DeCourcey, Executive Director of Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) concluded the event with her presentation on how SMART promotes high standards and best practices for reuse and recycling of textiles. In advance of the new waste ban changes, DeCourcey and the SMART team offered expertise in developing programs to promote textile recycling and help find recycling company partners. SMART aims to reduce solid waste through life extension in both pre- and post-consumer markets.
Forum participants were given the opportunity to ask presenters questions and network with other attendees. The RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts Fall 2022 Forum was a great success as it brought stakeholders from across the state together to move forward and make an impact through partnership and shared vision. A recording of the RecyclingWorks Fall 2022 Forum webinar and presentations are available on the RecyclingWorks in MA Forum webpage.
RecyclingWorks provides no-cost assistance to businesses and institutions looking to initiate all sorts of donations, waste reduction, and recycling programs. If your business is looking for support, reach out to us at (888) 254-5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.