Plastic Film Recycling
Ever wondered if there was a way you could recycle all those grocery bags building up under the sink? What about those plastic-padded envelopes you get from Amazon?
Soft filmy plastics like these are not recyclable in the conventional recycling bins at Tufts, but fear not! In 2018, Tufts developed a partnership with Trex so that members of the Tufts community can specialty recycle plastic film on campus. Trex then recycles plastic film into wooden products such as decks and benches. As Trex notes on their website, "The average 500-square foot composite Trex deck contains 140,000 recycled plastic bags!"
There are plastic film specialty recycling bins (see picture below) located around campus, including the following locations:
- Mayer Campus Center, 1st Floor
- Hill Hall Mail Services
- Sci Tech, 4 Colby St (one on each floor; 4 bins total)
- Barnum Hall, 2nd Floor (Office of Sustainability)
*Plastic film collection bin on Boston Health Sciences campus currently suspended due to COVID-19
What Can be Recycled
The following items can be placed in the plastic film bins (make sure they're clean and dry!):
- Grocery bags
- Zip-loc bags
- Bubble wrap and air pillows
- Blue and white plastic padded envelopes from Amazon
- Cereal bags, bread bags, ice bags, salt bags, and produce bags
- Newspaper sleeves
- Case overwrap (e.g. for water bottle cases or paper towel stacks)
- When in doubt, look for #2 or #4 within the recycling triangle
What Cannot be Recycled
The following items are not accepted in the plastic film specialty recycling bins and should be placed in the trash: grape bags, pre-washed salad mix bags, tan-colored plastic padded envelopes, re-sealable granola bags, re-sealable cold cuts and cheese containers.
Off-Campus Recycling Options
If you cannot access a specialty recycling bin on campus, you can also recycle plastic film at many local grocery stores, including the Whole Foods on Mystic Valley Parkway near the Medford/Somerville campus. You can find a participating store in your area by searching for your zip code.
Why is plastic film specialty recycling important?
Plastic film items, including grocery bags, bubble wrap, air pillows, and plastic-padded Amazon envelopes, are a significant source of contamination in Tufts' recycling stream.
It is important that plastic film items are not placed in the normal recycling bins at Tufts because they get caught in the machinery at the recycling sorting facility. When this happens, they shut things down, damage equipment, cost time and money, and most importantly, pose a safety hazard to the recycling workers who have to pick them out of the conveyer belts and machinery.
If you are unable to put plastic film items into a specialty recycling bin, please place these items in the trash.
Plastic Film Recycling Challenge
In September 2019, Tufts signed-up for a Trex challenge to recycle 500 pounds of plastic film in 6 months. Between student Move-In, Dining Center kitchens, the mail room, and a range of other efforts, Tufts was able to meet this goal. In turn, we won a Trex bench made out of recycled plastic film! Learn more about how we won the challenge on our blog.