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Setting the standard for reducing waste across campus

Take a look at Clark’s compost collection program that keeps food out of landfills, our community-supporting collaboration to reduce waste at move-out, and an innovative Choose to Reuse initiative that virtually eliminates waste from take-out containers, and you’ll see why Clark won MassRecycle  & EPA WasteWise awards for 6 consecutive years!

Clark’s 2019 recycling rate was 34%, a huge increase from baseline 19% in 2011! Our 2019 diversion rate (recycling + compost + other materials that we keep out of landfill) was 54% compared to 2011’s baseline of 40%. In 2018 Clark hit ‘Peak Recycling’, achieving a long-sought goal of 40%: in other words, 4 of every 10 pounds of waste was re-captured! The 2019 metrics reflect a market correction due to China’s National Sword policy that impacted recycling capacity in the US, and will probably continue. However, Clark has also reduced the total volume of trash generated from 194 tons in 2013 to only 143 tons in 2019 .

Hundreds of convenient recycling stations throughout campus make it easier for the Clark community to recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal. Bins for batteries are located in the AC & UC.

Now it’s your turn: Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and RECYCLE!

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From 2013 until 2020, Clark was one of very few colleges to successfully have compost collection in residence halls and academic buildings. The student group Clark Composts! (with over 700 student signatures in support), launched an innovative compost collection program in Johnson-Sanford, Wright, and Dodd Halls in Fall 2013. Residential Life, Facilities, Sustainable Clark, Clark Composts! and the Recycling Crew collaborated to make the program so successful that it expanded to all 9 residential halls by 2015 and continued to make a difference until circumstances outside our control necessitated the limiting of composting everywhere except in Dining Services. But we know how to do it and we can do it again when it becomes possible! Clark will continue to research options to expand campus composting given the current processing and end-site market, and will continue to comply with the Massachusetts Organic Waste Ban.

Between 2011 and 2019 Clark’s  Community Thrift Store, founded by students to reduce move-out waste, provided a sustainable & affordable shopping alternative to the Clark and Main South communities,  with two rooms full of top quality gently used clothes, household goods, linens, books, games & toys and pretty much everything else! All the items were donated during move -out or into two permanent collection bins on campus, while dedicated student employees and volunteers made sure that selections on the racks and shelves changed daily. In those nine years the Thrift Store diverted over 60 tons from landfill, gave dozens of students real-life experience, fostered a culture of re-use on campus, saved shoppers over $100, 000, built a community icon and was the inspiration for many other college thrift and swap shops – even a How-To Start a Store Manual.

Clarkies’ generous end of semester move-out donations are now collected by student volunteers for our non-profit partner the Hartsprings Foundation and directly benefit Worcester Big Brothers Big Sisters by funding “Bigs” as mentors are called!

The Thrift Store is a business venture of Clark Collective and the Entrepreneurship & Innovation program.

Already providing sustainable, compostable cardboard and starch-ware take out containers, Dining Services has gone further with Choose to Reuse Green2Go. No more waste from take-out containers! For only $5, you are provided with a large, reusable container for take out food. Bring the container back and exchange it for a clean one, filled with your favorite take-out! Dining Services will clean and exchange the Green2Go’s for most Bistro items and even in Higgins Cafe! Say it again: they wash it for you!

Reducing waste even more, Lean Path, a revolutionary software program to monitor pre-consumer food waste in the preparation of cafeteria food, has been part of Clark Dining behind the scenes since 2014. In the first year with Lean Path, Clark Dining Services kitchen staff managed to reduce waste by almost 6 tons!

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In 2015 Clark won a National-level WasteWise Partner of the Year performance award from the EPA for its effective recycling programs leading to significant waste reduction; one of only two awards given! In 2015, Clark also won a Region 2 WasteWise Food Recovery Challenge award for our innovative and extensive composting operations and source reduction. In 2013 Clark won MassRecycle ‘Best Student Effort’ among Massachusetts colleges and universities for its innovative and successful dorm composting program! In 2012 Clark was recognized by MassRecycle for the achievement of our student Recycling Crew and their partners in reducing waste (placing third behind Harvard and Tufts Universities – not bad company, considering the resources those two giants ‘throw’ at managing waste!) In 2011 Clark Dining Services won first place our composting program, averaging 200 tons of food waste diverted to compost per year.

End of semester move-out could result in mountains of trash as students leave campus in a hurry, discarding all the stuff they cannot take with them. Not at Clark! The month before move out, Sustainable Clark, Facilities Management and Res Life collaborate with a team of student volunteers to place donation bins in all of the residence halls, the Res Life office in the UC, and 128 Woodland St. apartments. Residents can put anything they do not want to take with them in the donation bins right through move out day, the earlier the better! Local non-profit Hartsprings Foundation takes all of the donations and turns them into cash, 100% of which is donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Worcester! In 2019, Clarkies donated enough goods to write a check to Big Brothers Big Sisters for $10,000 – enough to fund mentors for 10 lucky Main South kids!

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Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has recycling guidelines and even an online “Recyclopedia” that answers the important question: Can I recycle that? Clark is a charter partner of Recycle Smart, the information and advocacy source for improving recycling quality  and quantity in MA.

Contact Information

Sustainable Clark

Mailing Address:
  • Clark University
    950 Main Street
    Worcester, MA 01610
  • Office Location:
    Facilities Management (Gates House)
    501 Park Avenue
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