December 21, 2014
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Mixed up over recyclables
Warwick Beacon photo
ONE TOO MANY: The city wants residents to mix recyclables and place a cart every week at curbside if they want their trash collected. What they are also asking is that only one recyclable cart – it makes no difference whether green or blue – is used at a time.

Not one, but two…and no more than that.

That’s the new rule for trash day, and, if it doesn’t make sense to you, you are not alone.

This is the first week that the city has implemented the collection of mixed recyclables. You no longer need to wonder if it’s a green week for paper and cardboard or a blue one for cans bottles and plastics. That’s right; you can use either cart and no longer need to separate paper and plastic.

That should make life easier.

So far it hasn’t, says David Picozzi, acting director of the Department of Public Works.

With two days of the new system under his belt, Picozzi found a number of residents aren’t up to speed on the new system or the added requirement that, if people want their trash picked up, they had best recycle. Under the policy, the city won’t dump the gray cart used for trash unless a blue or green recyclable bin is beside it at curbside.

The aim of the directive is to increase recycling. For every pound the city doesn’t have to dump, it saves tipping fees at the state landfill. Meanwhile, for every added pound of recyclables – which it doesn’t have to pay to dispose of – it earns discounts.

“There’s going to be a learning curve here,” Picozzi said.Crews have found that a number of people aren’t aware of the two carts or nothing rule. Picozzi said the city has been “tagging” carts to let people know of the regulation.

There’s a concern, however, that recyclers might still separate and feel compelled to put both recycle carts out, which would result in more pick-ups of partially filled bins. That’s not as much a concern as how much recyclables the city would be faced with collecting.

That may sound counter-intuitive, since the city is looking to increase recycling.

Picozzi isn’t worried by an increase. His fear is that people might save up their recyclables over several weeks, causing unpredictable spikes in collections, delays and requiring trucks to make more than one trip a day to Johnston.

For those people who have been following the changes, there’s yet another issue: two different colored containers from the time when they did have to separate paper and plastics that can now be used for both paper and plastic, regardless of the color of the container.

“One of the biggest problems we’re having is that people want to return one of their carts,” he said.

That makes sense. With the cart being emptied every week, many people don’t see the need for two. The problem is, if the city were to take back either the green or blue cart, it doesn’t have any place to put them.

“We can’t hang on to them. Where are we going to store 30,000 carts?”

“What about selling or giving them to another municipality?” Picozzi was asked.

If economic times were better, he thinks that could be feasible. But, he said, municipalities aren’t looking into automating their collections as Warwick has done because of the high up-front cost. They would have to store them, as well. For now, the city thinks homeowners should keep the containers and use them as needed. What they don’t want people to do is to wait until both bins are full before putting out their recyclables. What they are looking for is a consistent flow of recyclables as opposed to occasionally light or occasionally heavy amounts.

The mixing of recyclables would seem to be a step backward from the system where residents culled material at a savings in time and cost for Rhode Island Resource Recovery. That’s not the case. A spokeswoman for Resource Recovery said the newly installed $16.9 million sorting system actually works better with a mix of material. The system has eliminated a lot of handpicking with those people being transferred into positions of quality control and catching the occasional item the screens and magnets have missed. No layoffs resulted from the upgrade in equipment that is projected to pay for itself over five years.

Nonetheless, the change has its problems.

“We had a great system, now there’s nothing but problems,” Picozzi said.

One of those problems is the mailer sent out by Resource Recovery shows cardboard boxes filled with recyclables. The city’s automated system can’t pick up the boxes. Everything must be in a cart.

“People are putting them out,” said Picozzi.

He is hopeful that once residents get a second mailing from Resource Recovery, aimed specifically at Warwick, people will have a better understanding of what’s expected. Meanwhile, Picozzi doesn’t want to deviate from the plan, fearing that if city crews do that people will expect it every time.


Comments
5 comments on this item

Let's see. If one person in a house and it takes them 30 days to fill their recycle bin, they still have to lug it out every week to have their regular container picked up, rather than when filled once a month have it collected once a month, which would save taxpayers money. This new policy is counterproductive, Draconian, and costs the city more due to extra unnecessary pick-ups. With more people paying bills on line, eating out, traveling, fewer people per home, more reading news online and not purchasing news papers, why should we pay for truck fuel and added labor time to pick up what in some instances are may amount to mostly empty containers? Why require people to lug what in many cases will be a mostly empty container to the curb when their trash can be consolidated and picked up once a month as more fitting for some homes? Also, given it takes me and others I know, around a month to fill my/our recycle containers, I sometime combine my recyclables with my next door neighbor cutting in half the no of truck stops required. . I t seems to me if a resident and taxpayer pays their taxes they are entitled to have their trash collected. Not Draconian punishment as in "we won't pick up your main trash container if you don't put out a blue or green container" Another mayoral decision without a hearing not in the interest of constituents. This policy needs to be revisited as it can be made less confusing and more efficient.

I think the change is a great one....I have been recycling for years and think it is very important and this makes it easier...my only complaint is I don't want to store the extra cart for the city....They are big, ugly and take up a lot of space. I disagree with bloodhound, I think the only way to force those who don't recycle into recycling is to add the requirement of no collection....There is only 2 in my home and half of my trash is recycled the other have placed in the trash bin...so if you are recycling properly your containers should be almost equal in waste, esp. now.

The city can store the carts at the compost.

This comment is more for Bloodhound above. There will actually be more of a savings every week if you continue to put out your recycles no matter how much you have in the bin. The truck still has to complete its rounds; ie, no savings in gas. The savings comes from the amount of recycles that are brought to the dump every week. The City wants to measure the savings on a weekly basis, to include the discount from total recycles. Combining the recycles into one bin (one truck) and keeping the volume low (don't wait until they're full) you decrease the number of trucks you send to the dump and the total number of rounds the trucks have to make, which equate to huge savings.

The trash volume from household to household does not change much week to week. The savings comes from the recycle discount at the dump. This new process streamlines pickup, saves gas, decreases overtime and maintenance costs. Its a bih win for every Warwick citizen. Just keep in mind the curbside "partial" recycles you are putting out are integral to the savings, its just not apparant.

Max

i put both trash containers out they emptied the one for recycled trash but never took the one for regular trash its bad enough the week before

the guy slammed my trash container on the ground and broke the wheels off now i had to drag this back in with the wheels falling off

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