[Originally published April 2012]
Kelley Fahy, 2012 J.D. Candidate
Every year, Massachusetts disposes of enough trash to fill 74 Fenway Parks. Disposal of solid waste carries a significant cost to our economy and environment, including contributing to the problem of global warming through greenhouse gas emissions. As landfills close and disposal options become more limited, municipalities, businesses, and educational institutions look for innovative solutions to the problem of higher waste disposal costs. The Massachusetts School of Law has started recycling as an important first step in “greening” our school.
Increasingly, educational institutions are implementing recycling programs because of the multiple benefits they provide. Recycling: 1) allows schools to help prevent a substantial portion of their waste from entering our already overflowing landfills; 2) allows materials to be reused to create new products, reducing energy and the need for extracting new materials; and 3) mitigates waste disposal costs because manufacturers will pay for the recyclable materials. In recent years, new technologies have substantially simplified the recycling process, allowing for all recyclables to be placed into a “single stream” of materials that are later sorted at recycling materials processing plants.
The Massachusetts School of Law’s recycling program was launched at the beginning of the 2012 through the tireless efforts of Student Trustee Felicea Robinson, a third year student at MSLAW. Felicea compared services and prices of trash haulers, discussed the logistics of pickup and collection, spoke with Associate Dean Michael Coyne and faculty, and proposed a plan for comprehensive recycling throughout the campus.
After careful consideration, the recycling program offered by Waste Management, Inc. was chosen. The new recycling program, based on the innovative single stream or co-mingled recycling process, does not require MSLAW students and staff to separate any of their recyclables; all recyclable materials such as paper, cans, and plastics can be thrown together into the recycling containers, and sorted later in processing plants that use technologies such as sorters, optical scanners, and magnets to separate the materials. Most importantly, the new recycling program reduces the amount of solid waste MSLAW sends to landfills by two-thirds, and saves MSLAW about $500 every month! For a video demonstration of how the separation processes work, you can view:
The single stream recycling process increases recycling efficiency by collecting more material with less labor and less energy expended on transportation. Single stream allows people to place more material in their recycling bins by giving them larger bins and by simplifying the system. High-quality sorted materials can be sold to a wide variety of markets and used as raw material for a whole range of products that can be made with recovered materials.
Since the MSLAW recycling program’s inception in the beginning of 2012, 20 cubic yards of material are now recycled at the school every week. This means that, on a monthly basis, over two tons of material that had been previously sent to a landfill are reprocessed into other materials, such as paper products, decking, and even clothing, like Polartec fleece.
We need your help to keep this effort successful! While the single-stream recycling process does allow for most plastics, glass, paper and aluminum to be deposited into recycling bins together, there are certain materials that, when put in the recycling bins, contaminate and compromise the separation of the waste materials. Additionally, these “non-recyclables” often create a mess in the recycling bins and extra work for the intrepid volunteers who empty the bins.
Please do not put the following materials into the recycling bins: food; food containers; Styrofoam (such as-Dunkin Donuts cups); sharp objects; plastic bags; bubble wrap; cling wrap; potato chip bags; CDs; or porcelain. Please take the time to dispose of non-recyclables in the trash, rather than throwing them into the recycling bins. Also, please empty your bottles prior to depositing them in the recycling bins.
To those of you who have been carefully depositing your recyclables into the recycling bins and assisting MSLAW Green with weekly collections; thank you for helping make this new and important MSLAW initiative successful! We need everyone’s involvement – take a moment to make sure you empty your containers, throw recyclables into recycling bins, and trash into trash bins. We welcome all volunteers to help with this program.
Please email MslGreen@msl.edu if you would like to get involved. – Kelley Fahy, Felicea Robinson, Jane Ceraso, and Michael Britt