Where Does Our Waste Go?

Where Does Our Waste Go?

Where Does Our Waste Go?

Compost (Food Waste): immediately after leaving campus, food waste is processed at a local organics processing facility: CORe in Charlestown. There it’s made into a bioslurry, and transported to Greater Lawrence Sanitary District’s wastewater treatment plant to aid in anaerobic digestion. This contributes to more efficient renewable energy production and produces biosolids as a byproduct.

Single-Stream Recycling: immediately after leaving campus, items in single-stream recycling are processed at a local Materials Recovery Facility. Click here to see how items are processed! From there, items are baled, sold, and turned into new products*:

  • Aluminum cans: new aluminum cans
  • Cans and tins: new tin cans and other metal products
  • Aluminum foil: material used in steel manufacturing
  • Paper: 67% shipped to domestic paper mills for new boxes; 33% exported, mostly to India and Vietnam
  • Glass: most is sent for roadwork and construction
  • HDPE plastic: shipped domestically to a plastic processor for variety of new products (car parts, buckets, etc.)
  • PET plastic: shipped domestically to make new water bottles, carpeting, and fleece
  • Other plastics: shipped domestically, used in making recycled paint cans

*This information can change quickly as recycling markets and supplies are frequently in flux. This page will be updated as needed with any updates. Last updated 10/24/22.

Textiles are often distributed for local reuse at our Recycling & Surplus Center. Any unwanted items are then sent to a regional textile recycler. From there, depending on the quality, items are either sent for domestic reuse, sent to international markets, or processed for raw materials.

Mattresses are offered for local reuse at our Surplus Center. We also partner with the United Teen Equality Center to recycle mattresses. Local youth employed by UTEC deconstruct mattresses to recycle materials.

Electronic waste and universal waste are processed by an R2-certified e-waste recycler in southeastern MA.

Plastic film (LDPE) is baled at our Recycling & Surplus Center and brought to a local processing facility. It is typically made into plastic bags.

Ink cartridges are sent to a domestic cartridge recycler, where they are either made into new cartridges or sent back to the original manufacturer.

Wood scraps are sent to a local construction materials recycler, where they are either made into new products or renewable energy.

Trash: Harvard's trash is either incinerated at a Massachusetts waste-to-energy plant, or landfilled out of state in New Hampshire or Michigan. The ratio of how much is landfilled versus incinerated changes frequently and depends on facility capacity and wait times. For the latest numbers on how much is incinerated versus landfilled, reach out to the department contacts above. 

    Department Contacts

    Kieran Clyne
    Associate Manager, Recycling Services
    Dailey Brannin
    Recycling Services Supervisor