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Recycling services expanded through Boston Public Schools partnership

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There are now dropboxes for residents to bring their clothing and textiles at 11 BPS locations across Boston.

Mayor Janey, in collaboration with the City of Boston’s Environment Department, Boston Public Schools (BPS), and Northeast-based textile recycling company Helpsy, has delivered dropboxes for residents to bring their textiles to 11 BPS locations across Boston. These dropboxes are a part of the City of Boston's work to expand recycling services citywide, creating a healthier and more sustainable environment for generations to come. This expansion of services builds on the work of Boston’s Zero Waste Plan and BPS Sustainability efforts in reducing the amount of waste generated and going to landfill or incineration. 

“Promoting sustainable practices are especially important as we work towards a greener and more equitable Boston,” said Mayor Janey. “I am excited that the City of Boston, in collaboration with Boston Public Schools and Helpsy, has delivered dropboxes for residents to bring their textiles to 11 BPS locations throughout Boston. These dropboxes will help expand recycling services citywide and will create a healthier environment for generations to come.” 

Residents, including BPS teachers and students, looking to drop off their textiles, including clothes, shoes, sneakers, bags, stuffed animals, bedding and towels, should ensure items are dry and placed into a secured plastic bag. This Helpsy collaboration expands upon the partnership with BPS and Bay State Textile boxes. Together with the Boston Public Works Department, Helpsy boxes can already be found at municipal lots in Brighton, Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, South Boston, Roslindale and West Roxbury. 

Boston Public Schools’ new textile dropbox locations include:

  • Blackstone Elementary, South End
  • Boston International Newcomers Academy, Dorchester
  • Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers, Fenway
  • James Hennigan K-8, Jamaica Plain
  • Josiah Quincy Elementary, Chinatown
  • Mary Lyon High, Brighton
  • Mather Elementary, Dorchester
  • McKinley Elementary, Back Bay
  • McKinley Middle, Kenmore
  • Pauline A. Shaw Elementary, Dorchester
  • Warren Prescott K-8, Charlestown

“Our student leaders have prioritized climate justice and environmental activism and this program honors and lifts up our students’ voices and priorities,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. “Textile recycling companies like Helpsy not only help us create a healthier and greener Boston for our students, but it also helps promote sustainability awareness for our students to help them understand the importance of caring for our environment for future generations.”

These Helpsy textile boxes accept

  • Dresses, Shirts, Pants, Suites
  • Coats, Gloves, Hats
  • Belts, Ties, Scarves
  • Wallets, Purses, Backpacks, Totes
  • Shoes / Sandals
  • Towels / Bedding / comforters
  • Halloween Costumes
  • Pet Clothing
  • Curtains / Drapes
  • Placemats / Tablecloths and Linen
  • Throw Rugs

Helpsy sorts and grades the materials and 95 percent of textiles collected are reused, upcycled, or recycled, 75 percent being reused, and 20 percent being recycled. The higher grades are resold to thrift stores in North America and other second hand markets around the world. The lower grades get put to industrial use or alternative functions such as stuffing or insulation. In just the last year, Helpsy has collected and processed over 25 million pounds of textiles. Helpsy will pay a percentage per pound of clothing, shoes, and other textiles. On a monthly basis, Helpsy will calculate the pounds of clothes that were collected from the school and send it a check quarterly.

“Individuals can play a critical role in helping Boston meet its goal of zero waste by choosing what they do with the materials in their lives,” said Laura Alves, the City of Boston’s Zero Waste Coordinator. “The launch and expansion of the textile dropbox program is a shared focus across our city to increase material reuse and recycling. Collaborating with BPS Sustainability to roll out the opportunity for schools to participate in textiles waste reduction has already resulted in BPS communities helping Boston collect nearly a total of 69 thousand pounds of textiles in May.” 

From 2017-2020, BPS Sustainability distributed new recycling equipment to BPS schools: 340 curbside carts, 333 barrels, and 5,197 classroom bins. From 2020 to 2021, even with the shift to school-from-home, BPS added 35 carts, 47 barrels, 119 classroom bins. BPS schools put out an estimated 820 recycling carts per week to be serviced by the City of Boston Public Works Department’s curbside residential recycling program. The Environment Department and BPS Sustainability also partnered to design and post new trash and recycling signage in all BPS classrooms.

In addition to textiles, roughly 30 percent of what gets put into the trash in Boston is compostable. Boston has expanded its leaf and yard waste curbside collection program from 17 to 20 weeks a year. The City is offering 20 additional weekends where yard waste can be dropped off at the Public Works composting facility on American Legion Highway. All residential yard waste is turned into compost and distributed to City Gardens and Boston Parks and Recreation Department greenhouses. Leaf and yard waste curbside collection will continue every week through December 11. 

The City of Boston continues to encourage residents to utilize tools like the City's free "Trash Day" app. The app enables Boston residents to search a directory of hundreds of household items to find out the right way to dispose of them while on the go or at home. App users can also view a calendar for their home's collection dates, set reminders, get notifications of schedule changes, and locate the nearest textile dropbox in your neighborhood.  

Boston residents can also safely dispose of hazardous waste, shred unwanted documents, discard textiles and recycle electronics for free at a series of Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off events. These programs build on Boston's Zero Waste Plan, which was released in June 2019. This plan includes 30 near- and long-term strategies to divert at least 80 percent of the City's waste from landfills and municipal solid waste combustors by 2035. 

Key pieces of the plan include expanding Boston's composting program, increasing access to recycling opportunities and launching a city-wide education campaign on recycling. Approximately six percent of Boston's greenhouse gas emissions come from the City's discarded materials. By reducing waste, recycling more, and composting, Boston can reduce emissions associated with waste and move one step closer to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, outlined in the City's 2019 Climate Action Plan update.

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