Trash Buddy FAQ

  1. How does the Trash Buddy program work?
  2. What is a “trash buddy”?
  3. So custodians won’t be emptying my trash every day? What will they be doing?
  4. Why is Tufts adopting this program?
  5. Is there any evidence that this program works?
  6. How will we know that the program is working?
  7. How can something so small possibly hold all of the trash I produce every day?
  8. If most office waste is recyclable, what do I put in the trash buddy?
  9. What do I put in the desk-side bin that’s not my trash buddy?
  10. Where do I empty my trash buddy?
  11. Why do I have to empty my own trash? It’s not in my job description.
  12. What about the smell or mess from food left in my trash buddy?
  13. Why aren’t we provided with liners for the trash buddy?
  14. Can I bring my own plastic bag to line my trash buddy?
  15. What happened to my old trash can?
  16. What do I do if my trash buddy is destroyed or lost?
  17. Where should I go or whom should I ask if I have more questions about my trash buddy?
  18. How do I get a compost bin for my office?
  19. Is this program affecting all buildings at Tufts?
  20. How can I get involved in other ways to make my office space and operations more environmentally friendly?

How does the Trash Buddy program work?

A trash buddy is a miniature trash can that can be attached to the blue paper recycling bin in your individual office or cubicle and will help direct your individual office waste to where it belongs. The trash buddy replaces your traditional desk-side trash can, and its size represents the typical proportion of office waste that is truly trash. The trash buddy’s small volume and attachment to the recycled paper bin encourage recycling. All waste produced at your desk that is not recyclable should be disposed of in the trash buddy, and you should empty the trash buddy into a central waste station when it fills up or whenever you find convenient; paper (not glass, metal, and plastic) should be placed in your blue desk-side bin and all other recyclables in a central waste station. Central waste stations are emptied every day and are typically found in common or well-traversed spaces in your offices. They include a trash bin, a paper and cardboard recycling bin, and a glass, metal, and plastic recycling bin.

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What is a “trash buddy”?

A trash buddy is a miniature trash can that can be attached on the outside or inside of the blue paper recycling bin in your individual office or cubicle.

Your desk-side combo: a paper recycling bin with an attached trash buddy

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So custodians won’t be emptying my trash every day? What will they be doing?

Tufts is working with its custodial contractor on reorganizing the provision of custodial services to be more efficient and effective. Custodians will be refocused on cleaning bathrooms, classrooms, hallways and other high use areas.  They will still be emptying the central waste stations daily and cleaning offices once a week, when they will also empty your desk-side paper bin. Additional questions about custodial staffing can be directed to Vice President for Operations Linda Snyder.

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Why is Tufts adopting this program?

Trash Buddy (or “mini-bin”) programs have been successfully implemented at many colleges and universities both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as at other organizations in the public and private sectors.  These programs have been shown to significantly increase recycling rates and decrease trash production. Additionally, they often result in cost savings, most frequently due to the elimination of plastic trash can liners and re-direction of custodial labor. As a university committed to reducing its waste production and becoming more environmentally sustainable, the Trash Buddy program is a proven, common-sense initiative for Tufts to undertake.

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Is there any evidence that this program works?

Yes. Programs similar or identical to our Trash Buddy program have been implemented by many organizations, academic and otherwise, with positive outcomes in waste reduction, recycling rates and waste management costs.  Here is a case study from 2002 focusing on two of the first institutions to implement “mini-bin” programs: the Ontario provincial government and the San Jose city government. Since then, many universities have successfully adopted these programs, including:

  • Dartmouth College, which increased its recycling rate by 33% and reduced the amount of waste sent to landfills by 200 tons within one year.
  • Sonoma State University, which increased its recycling rate by 55% within one year.
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which increased its recycling rate by 20% and saved $13,000 annually on trash bag liners.
  • After a pilot program increased recycling rates by 22%, University of Maryland implemented a mini-bin program in all academic and administrative buildings.
  • By having employees empty their own mini garbage cans into central waste receptacles, the University of Minnesota Duluth decreased the amount of recyclables in its trash by 14% and reduced the total amount of waste sent to the landfill by almost 20%.

Additionally, a 2014 study of 34 offices across the United States found that mini-bin programs are the most effective office waste arrangement for increasing recycling and reducing contamination. Offices with mini-bins reduced the amount of recyclables in the trash by 16%, increased the amount of recyclables collected by 20%, and virtually eliminated office paper from the waste stream.

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How will we know the program is working?

Tufts measures and tracks its waste. In addition to the existing waste audit data available for several Tufts buildings, we are performing before-and-after waste monitoring on selected buildings on all three campuses. Using this information we will be able to track recycling rates and total waste trends over time.

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How can something so small possibly hold all of the trash I produce every day?

The great majority of office waste is actually recyclable, so when it is disposed of properly you will find that the trash buddy will typically suffice for your non-recyclable waste items. Depending on the nature of your office’s work and your personal waste habits, you might not need to empty your trash buddy more than once or twice a week.

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If most office waste is recyclable, what do I put in the trash buddy?

The most common items are: napkins, tissues, paper towels, food waste, non-rigid plastic (e.g., plastic bags, plastic wraps), Styrofoam, and foil wrappers (e.g., candy and granola bar wrappers, chip and cookie bags). Please put any messy food waste directly into a central trash bin. For complete information on what can and cannot be recycled at Tufts, please visit our Recycling pages. If you’d prefer a video version, this narrated presentation summarizes recycling at Tufts.

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What do I put in the desk-side bin that’s not my trash buddy?

The desk-side bin which accompanies your trash buddy is only for paper and cardboard recycling. Glass, metal and plastic recycling will still need to be deposited in the green bins found in the central waste stations, which are emptied daily. Since paper products comprise the majority of waste produced in individual office and cubicle spaces, pairing a paper recycling bin with the trash buddy is sensible considering both workplace practicality and the stated goals of the trash buddy initiative. Desk-side paper recycling bins will be emptied weekly when custodians clean your office. If you or a colleague do not have a paper recycling bin to complete your trash buddy combination, please send a request to recycle@tufts.edu and we will distribute one to you.

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Where do I empty my trash buddy?

Empty your trash buddy into the large trash bins located in central waste stations throughout your office space or building. Central waste stations are typically found in common or well-traversed spaces in your offices and also include bins for mixed paper and cardboard recycling as well as glass, metal, and plastic recycling.

A typical central waste station: glass, metal, & plastic; trash; and paper & cardboard

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Why do I have to empty my own trash? It’s not part of my job description.

Tufts is committed to being an environmentally sustainable institution that continually seeks to adopt effective, innovative measures on its path toward zero waste. It is everyone’s job on campus to reduce waste, recycle more and protect the environment and this is one of the ways that you can be a great help in achieving these aims. The bin can be emptied at one of the many times during the day that you leave your desk. As soon as you are habituated to your trash buddy you will probably not notice any inconvenience or disruption of productivity.

Ballou Hall, the home of many senior administrators, including the president of the university, will be one of the first buildings to implement the program. The co-operation of all levels of staff is essential in this important initiative to reduce waste and recycle more. Please join the president, the provost, senior VPs, deans and other executives in leading by example.

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What about the smell or mess from food left in my trash buddy?

It’s good to put messy items straight into a centralized trash bin, which are emptied daily. This is an ideal practice anyway, as your colleagues will not be bothered by food odors. If your trash buddy gets dirty, you can use a napkin, tissue, or the nearest sink (not drinking fountain) to clean it out.

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Why aren’t we provided with liners for the trash buddy?

A primary goal of this program is to reduce Tufts’ output of non-recyclable waste, and the use of plastic liners simply increases our production of trash. Trash buddies will eliminate the need for thousands of liners, saving us money and reducing our negative impact on the environment; for instance, on the Grafton campus alone the Trash Buddy program will save Tufts 2,340 liners per month. If you wish to avoid soiling your trash buddy with messy food waste, you can dispose of your items directly in the central trash bin or in a compost bin, if your office has one available.

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Can I bring my own plastic bag to line my trash buddy?

Plastic bags end up in the incinerator and undercut the environmental goals of the program, so we discourage their use. Some staff have lined their bin with a paper lunch bag or plastic bag that they reuse. You can rinse your trash buddy when needed much like you do your coffee cup.

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What happened to my old trash can?

The trash cans replaced with trash buddies will disposed of in several ways. Some will be re-purposed and re-labelled as recycling bins or set aside for future use as common-area trash cans, and some will be offered to local schools and non-profits through Community Relations. The remainder will be recycled.

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What do I do if my trash buddy is destroyed or lost?

If your trash buddy goes missing or is rendered unusable for any reason, contact Tufts Recycles! at recycle@tufts.edu. You can submit a request for a bin here.

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Where should I go or whom should I ask if I have more questions about my trash buddy?

If you have any questions or concerns that are not covered in this FAQ, email us at recycle@tufts.edu. You can also get in touch with your office’s Eco-Ambassador if available. General information about recycling at Tufts—what is and is not recyclable, where and how to recycle particular items, etc.—can be found on our Recycling pages.

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How do I get a compost bin for my office?

Office composting is available in offices where an Eco-Ambassador or other dedicated staff member has taken responsibility for it. At this point, they are not universally available or managed by Tufts Facilities Services or the custodial staff. If you are interested in starting a composting program in your office, please refer to the composting pages of our website.

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Is this program affecting all buildings at Tufts?

All offices on all three campuses at Tufts will be participating in this program and receiving trash buddies. Common areas, classrooms, conference rooms and other non-office spaces will not receive trash buddies; however, we will continue to seek adaptive and innovative ways to improve waste management in these spaces as well.

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How can I get involved in other ways to make my office space and operations more environmentally friendly?

There are many ways for staff and faculty to get involved in Tufts’ sustainability efforts. These include joining the Eco-Ambassador program, an education and action program for employees; getting your office Green Office certified; starting or joining a green team; or developing your own sustainability initiative with your department, the Tufts Office of Sustainability, or other relevant units at Tufts.

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