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My job as a recycling worker, Part 2

Sorry it took a little longer than expected to post Part II, but here it is.

Having to interact with workers at all types of business has shown me that you never know who will be a good customer and who won’t be. People who you expect to not care about recycling can sometimes surprise you.... read more

My job as a recycling worker

My job as a recycling worker, Part 1

For the past four years I have been working for a small recycling hauler in the city of Boston while waiting for my writing career to take off. Surprisingly I’m a better recycler than a writer, o well. Quick side note- I decided to do this one in two parts, because I soon realized for a blog this was going to be a little to long. I’ll post the second half in a week or two.

 On a weekly and many times daily basis I pick up recycling from a range of different types of businesses. This includes small non-profits, startups, large law firms in town and commercial warehouses. Depending on the day I may spend most of my time going in and out of offices in Downtown Boston or dodging forklifts in over-packed warehouses in East Boston.

 Before I started the job I wondered what people, especially customers would think of the “recycling guy”. Would people just think of me as a grubby janitor? Once I started I quickly began to see how people perceived us (my co-workers and myself). After about a year my idea of what people thought of the “recycling guy” had changed greatly from before I started the job.... read more

Candy wrappers cannot be recycled

Candy wrappers are not recyclable. Now before someone jumps down my throat, yes they are reusable and upcyclable. There are a couple of places that collect and make stuff out of the candy wrapper material. TerraCycle does this. They actually have a program set up for candy wrappers specifically.

That being said it doesn’t mean people can throw them in regular paper or single stream recycling. The discarded candy wrapper won’t magically find its way with his other candy wrapper friends to their specific recycling program somewhere.

Most likely anyone reading this blog wouldn’t throw his or her empty candy wrapper in the wrong bin. Many of you reading this though, would be very surprised how often people do toss these wrappers into recycling bins instead of trash bins.... read more

Ode to the Trashman

I’ll be honest I came up with this blog after reading an article in a waste hauling/management magazine by an old time trucker/trashman. The article touched on the loss of respect for today’s trashmen and waste haulers.

garbage truckThe modern trashman or garbageman doesn’t receive the respect he or she deserves (yes there are a good number of women working in the waste and recycling fields, but that’s for another blog) for the services they provide. These positions aren’t considered the most well respected jobs. These are dirty, labor intensive and unforgiving jobs. Many times considered a dirty job provided by the uneducated.

Most people may not realize that these jobs can pay very well. In NYC some garbagemen are making six figures. The jobs are well paying many times and unionized, but the workers earn their pay. Trash hauling is big a money business. People and companies are willing to pay whatever it takes for their trash to disappear. For the most part the waste hauling business is controlled by a handful of large national corporations.

The line of work is dangerous and dirty. These workers have to deal with our waste and heavy machinery. They have to handle what we discard. Ranging from food waste to dirty diapers. Often times even hazardous and deadly materials. When a work grabs a barrel to dump he has no idea what could be inside.... read more

Incinerator Moratorium Update

The Massachusetts DEP has released their “Master Plan” for solid waste management in Massachusetts. The major components in the plan include increase in recycling, reduction in overall waste, monitoring and enforcement of waste bans, and modification to the incinerator moratorium. The proposed modification of the incinerator moratorium would encourage the use of alternative technologies, such as gasification, for converting waste to energy or fuel under certain conditions (nma.org).

The incinerator moratorium was introduced in 1988. At that time there were fourteen applications at DEP for new incinerators to be built. Fourteen were way too much for the DEP to handle. Having that many incinerators would mean our state would be burning all trash/MSW. Possibly hurting municipal recycling programs. ... read more

Thank You MBTA

Dear MBTA (Mass Bay Transportation Authority for the non-Boston area readers),

Thank you for ruining another commute to work. The other day I spent nearly two hours on the red and green line attempting to go from Dorchester to Somerville, roughly ten miles.... read more

Plastic bags contaminating recycling

Plastic bags still seem to be one of the hardest materials to recycle. Although they are made of very easily recyclable materials they can many times be a contaminant in regular recycling. Problems with trying to properly recycle plastic bags is nothing new. Plastic bags have always been one of those commodities that have posed a challenge to collect and recycle. It’s no wonder why so many people would like to see them banned from being used.

 Plastic bags are typically made from one of three basic types: high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), or linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). The thicker glossier shopping bags from the mall or retail stores are LLDPE, while grocery bags are usually HDPE.

 Today most recycling haulers are seeing plastic bags mixed in with recycling. This is occurring in both single stream and multi stream recycling programs. Plastic bags are being found mixed in both municipal and commercial recycling.... read more

Recycling finds

 I’ve been working for a small recycling hauler for about two years now. We collect all around Boston and the surrounding area. I have come across a lot of items that are not recyclable stashed away in our recycling containers; in the business we call these contaminants. Some are funny and some are gross. Many are interesting.

Here is short list of interesting things I’ve found in the recycling:

 Women’s shoes. So far I’ve found one and a half pairs of women’s shoes. Apparently women’s shoes appear discarded in recycling bins more than you think. My co-workers have also come across a few pairs in their day. In the past twenty five years of my company being in business collecting recycling, we have found about five pairs of women’s shoes, but no men’s shoes.

 Dirty Diapers. This really sucks, almost as bad as dog waste. The smell is just horrendous. I’ve seen one or two of these in my short and illustrious recycling career. Why are you dumping your kid’s stinky diaper in a recycling bin? Please, moms of the world, stop this.... read more

Is Styrofoam recyclable?


Question: Is Styrofoam recyclable?
Answer: No. Yes. Well kind of, sort of.

I get this question almost weekly working for a recycling company. Many times people assume Styrofoam is recyclable, especially if it has a recycling symbol and number on the piece. Packaging pieces and Dunkin Donut cups keep appearing more and more mixed in with single stream and glass/plastics recycling.


... read more

Exporting Computers

Most people are against exporting old computers to other countries, especially developing countries. There are plenty of organizations and people out there that are whole-heartedly against the idea of sending our old computers out of the country.

Exporting computers to developing countries isn’t always a bad thing. Sending our trash to them so they can just dump it in a landfill is obviously bad. Sending them useable machines to re-use doesn’t seem like a horrible idea.... read more

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