A combustible concern for summer safety


As the director of recycling services at Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC), I spend a good bit of my time talking with Rhode Islanders about what items can and can’t be recycled – according to my kids, too much time. But for me, it’s always exciting to hear residents’ questions, and believe me; I can talk trash all day long. I know the power of recycling and the positive effect that it has on our environment and our state, and I love helping people solve their everyday problems regarding how to best recycle household items.

These recycling conversations don’t take a vacation during the summer months, where, from backyard BBQs to weekends at the campsite, many are confused about the proper way to recycle items commonly used during summer activities. I understand that there’s still confusion out there about items that may not quite fit the rules of thumb, or that perhaps are new to the program. But remember, our state’s recycling program, Recycle Together RI, makes it easier than ever to get recycling right!

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge facing our workers at the Materials Recycling Facility, or “MRF” as we call it – where we collect and process the state’s recyclables – is the prevalence of mistakenly recycled flammable and combustible containers. We tend to see these types of containers more often during the summer due to camping activities, outdoor grilling and backyard celebrations. Here are some helpful tips to make recycling a breeze this summer and keep your family and friends safe.

Backyard BBQ: Lighter fluids, small and large propane bottles, and anything labeled “flammable”; these items cannot be recycled in your bin or cart and are actually considered household hazardous waste. These items should be recycled through RIRRC’s Eco-Depot program. We hold over 40 free collection events each year around the state and a schedule of upcoming collections can be found at www.ecodepotri.org.

Metal containers under pressure: Aerosol spray cans, and any container that holds contents “under pressure” must be completely empty before recycling. If the container holds fewer than two gallons in size and is empty, it can be recycled in your bin or cart. If the item still contains some propellant material, do not place it in your recycling because it may cause an explosion or fire in the MRF when the container is crushed and baled with other metals. This happens with unfortunate regularity during the summer, posing a risk to our MRF staff and causing damage to the facility.

New plastics: Any plastic household container holding fewer than two gallons can be recycled. So go ahead and toss your plastic SOLO cups, iced coffee cups (no straws, please) and plastic takeout containers in your bin or cart as well.

We hear it all too often – summer will be gone before we know it. Enjoy what’s left of the season and please keep these recycling tips in mind, ensuring a safe, happy and healthy summer for all.

Sarah Kite is the director of recycling services for the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, the owner and operator of the Central Landfill and Materials Recycling Facility, both located in Johnston.


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