September 1, 2014
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Efficiency, increased recycling aim of new trash policy

It couldn’t be clearer – unless residents recycle, the city won’t pick up their trash.

That means that on collection day, they will have to put out two carts, a gray one with trash and either a blue or green one with mixed recyclables. Alternating weeks of blue and green recycling carts is over. Paper, bottles, cans and plastics can now be mixed.

Along with the end of separating recyclables, the “No cart, No collection, No exception” rules go into effect on June 11.

The system should minimize trash while maximizing recycling, says Christopher Beneduce, the city’s sanitation and recycling supervisor.

And, while Beneduce recognizes many people may not fill a green or blue cart in the course of a week, there’s another reason to put one or the other out.

“Our biggest fear is that they will hold on to it [recyclables] and fill both of them [carts],” he said.

If that became a common practice, collection crews could be faced with more recyclables on one week than on another. That could pose problems.

As planned, each of the seven trash and seven recycling trucks on the road during a collection day will make a single run to Rhode Island Resource and Recovery (RIRR) in Johnston. A full truck, or nearly full truck, is the most efficient means of operation. Requiring people to place recyclables at curbside is seen as ensuring as even a flow of material as possible and keeping trucks on a single haul to the landfill schedule.

Also, requiring one recycling cart weekly, the city figures people will always have another to handle any overflow that otherwise might have been thrown in the trash.

In the long run, the entire system, including the mixing of recyclables, is projected to save money for the city and the state.

With a recycling collection rate of more than 26 percent – that’s 26 percent of all collections are recyclables – Warwick has one of the highest rates among cities.

Some smaller communities have rates over 40 percent, which reflects different systems, says Beneduce. Some communities collect recyclables for free but charge for trash. In those cases – subscription service – recycling rates are higher. A reduction in the waste stream further translates into savings at the landfill. Municipalities pay a $32-a-ton tipping fee at the landfill and nothing for recyclables. In fact, they get a rebate on recyclables.

Further, explains Beneduce, municipalities are offered an incentive to increase recycling with reductions in the tipping fee. He said municipalities with a 24 to 27 percent collection rate have their tipping fee reduced by $1 a ton. At 27 to 30 percent, they get another dollar.

Municipalities are also faced with caps on trash, at which point tipping fees increase. Warwick’s cap is about 26,000 tons a year, which, to Beneduce’s recollection, has never exceeded.

At the receiving end of all the recyclables, Resource Recovery has invested $16.9 million in an improved system that mechanically sorts material; separating the mix it takes in. Sarah Kite, spokeswoman for the landfill, said the system works best when faced with a mix of recyclables. The system that went into operation last week is also designed to capture more of the plastic containers that previously went into the landfill. That includes jars for mayo, peanut butter and jelly; tubs for butter, ice cream and margarine; plastic takeout containers, but not Styrofoam, which still goes into the trash; iced coffee cups; yogurt containers and plastic egg cartons.

To properly recycle, containers should be empty and rinsed.

The system is also designed to recapture wrapping and tissue paper previously slated for the trash. Refrigerated and frozen food boxes, as well as greasy pizza boxes, should go into the trash.

All Warwick residents should have received a mailer, including a refrigerator magnet with a breakdown of materials that should and shouldn’t be placed in recycling carts. They should receive another mailer this week reinforcing the city is going to the mixed system and making it clear, “No cart, No collection. No exception.”


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