2020: Is it over yet?

2020. What a year. A global pandemic, a stock market crash, Black Lives Matter protests, murder hornets, wildfires along the West Coast and in Australia, Space-Ex launched astronauts into space, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leaving the royal family – what’s next? With all the mind-boggling news headlines, the Recycle Smart Team figured everyone could use some more uplifting stories as we close out 2020. Here are our top stories from the Massachusetts recycling world for some lighter reading.

Is Recycling Broken? (Spoiler alert – the answer is no)

Speaking of news headlines – the media has consistently spread a doomsday story about recycling since the beginning of the market downturn set off by China’s National Sword policy which took effect in January 2018. The good news? There’s a lot more to the story than what the headlines would lead you to believe. Check out the webinar recording from Recycle Smart Team presentation  “Is Recycling Broken? (Spoiler alert- the answer is no)” from April 2020 and the newsletter “Is Recycling A Waste?” to learn more about why recycling is still vitally important for our environment and the economy.

You Asked, We Answered

Many of our readers and social media followers have told us they’d like to know what happens to their recyclables once they’re set at the curbside or dropped off at the municipal transfer station.  That’s why earlier this year, the Recycle Smart Team launched an interactive map for Massachusetts residents to find the answer!  If your recyclables are picked up curbside, they most likely go to a MRF — pronounced MURPH.  Nope, not your irish cousin. MRF stands for Materials Recovery Facility, where paper, metal, plastic and glass are sorted and baled into commodities that are sold to intermediate processors or end-users such as paper mills.  To find out what exactly happens at a MRF (there are 9 of them in Massachusetts), read our feature article from the May newsletter: A Day in the Life at a Recycling Facility.

Recycling’s Most Wanted List: Cardboard Boxes

The humble cardboard box is the backbone of our nation’s packaging and delivery system to move goods to businesses, hospitals, grocery stores and more than ever, our homes.   The nation’s box manufacturing industry has long depended on a steady supply of “recovered fiber” (aka old cardboard boxes and paper) to make new boxes.  Under COVID 19, box makers are literally working overtime to make new packages from old. That’s why we need to work harder than ever to insure they get the raw materials they depend on, including our pizza boxes, by recycling as much as possible and as smart as possible.  Check out the October Recycle Smart newsletter “No Matter How You Slice It” to learn more about recycling cardboard boxes.

Let’s Talk About Plastic

In June, the Recycle Smart Team launched a three-part series called “Let’s Talk About Plastic” to address your most pressing questions about plastic recycling. From the basics of which plastic items are recyclable (and which are not), to what to do when your favorite items come wrapped in unwanted plastic packaging or you are bombarded with non-recyclable take-out containers when ordering food to-go, check out this newsletter series to brush up on all things plastic recycling. Let’s Talk About Plastic: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Step Up Your Recycling Game.

Are you a master recycler? Or do you just think you are? Last April, we released the Recycle Smart Quiz in honor of Earth Day.  The answers to the 12 questions in this two-minute crash course just might surprise you.  Market research shows that 77% of Massachusetts residents believe they know the “rules” for recycling”.  But, it turns out more than 50% of us admit to being “wish-cyclers”, meaning we put items in the bin we “think can be recycled”, including plastic bags and styrofoam.  Our quiz is guaranteed to make you, or your neighbor or co-worker a smarter recycler.  Resolve to take the quiz in 2021 and share your results with friends and family.


Simplify the Holidays

The holiday season is bound to look a little different this year between safety concerns with travel and social gatherings and families feeling the economic impact of COVID. With more Americans wishing for a less materialistic and more meaningful holiday  – 2020 is the perfect year to simplify. Check out the Center for Biological Diversity’s new waste prevention campaign for tips and tools for a holiday season that is a little friendlier towards the planet, your wallet, and your sanity. https://simplifytheholidays.org/


Partner Spotlight: The Town of Milton

This Recycle Smart MA Partner is thinking outside of the trash bin – and keeping recyclable material out of it, too. The Town of Milton focuses on communication with residents to provide education around solid waste and recycling. To get the message out, Milton uses multiple outlets, including their detailed trash and recycling website that features the Recyclopedia and Smart Recycling Guide.

Collection opportunities – like the monthly recycling center day where residents bring in electronics, batteries, and more – are shared on the website, Twitter and Facebook, and through the annual mailer.

Milton boasts a strong textile recycling program that is “a great success…because our residents are willing to take the time and effort to recycle their textiles properly,” said new Environmental Coordinator Erica DeDonato. The town also runs a Library of Things where residents can borrow items they may need for a limited, specific purpose like electronics, musical instruments, tools, and more.  Thanks Milton, for promoting the “sharing economy” and lightening our footprint on the planet!

With conscientious residents and an engaged staff, the Town of Milton is checking things off the list and will focus on expanding their composting program next – congrats to Erica and former Coordinator Hillary Waite, and way to go Milton!

Calling all Recycle Smart MA Partners:
Want to show off your “recycling smarts” in a future Partner Spotlight? Send us an email at RecycleSmartMA@mass.gov with your “bin-spirational” recycling practices!

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