Recycling up, trash down
Now that residents must place a recyclable cart alongside their trash to be picked up, the rate of recycling has increased.
Christopher Beneduce, director of the city’s recycling program, said Friday that the city is seeing a 5 to 6 percent increase in recyclables. That amounts to 10 to 15 tons, or two to three additional truckloads, of Warwick recyclables going to Rhode Island Resource Recovery every week. Correspondingly, what is being shipped to the state landfill is down.
For the first weeks of July, trash hauled to the landfill dropped from 1,092 tons for the period last July to 1,042 this year. That 50-ton decline resulted in more than a $1,600 savings for tipping fees, Beneduce said.
While Beneduce is pleased with the performance of the system so far, it has not come without problems.
The “No recycling cart, no trash pickup” mandate was implemented when Resource Recovery converted from a system of separated to mixed recyclables. This did away with the city’s system of alternating weeks of collecting paper and bottles, plastics and cans in green and blue carts. At the same time, the state also expanded its collections of recyclables, mostly of plastics that previously went in the trash.
Beneduce believes mixing and the wider range of what is now recyclable has also augmented the diversion from the trash stream. How much of the increase in recyclables is due to mixing and the mandate can’t be quantified.
But city officials know all too well what happens when city trucks drive by gray carts filled with trash when a green or blue cart isn’t standing beside it. On the first day of the system, the city received more than 400 calls from angry residents and it didn’t slow down for a full week.
Many residents, fully aware of the requirement, wheeled recycling carts to the curb, but, after they were emptied and before trash trucks made their rounds, rolled them back from the curb and onto their property, prompting a no pick-up of the trash. Again, more calls came and more explaining was done.
“There’s a learning curve,” Beneduce said. “People are starting to get used to it.”
Now that either the green or blue cart can be used, people are asking if the city will take one of the carts, now that they don’t need both. So far, the administration had considered collecting un-needed carts and possibly selling them to another municipality, but that doesn’t appear to be the plan at this point. Residents are urged to place one or the other recycling cart out each week. Unless, of course, they have two full carts, and the operative word is “full.”
Beneduce said the city would empty two recycling carts, but it is hoping for people to use their second cart for overflow after the other cart is filled.
“That way, they avoid throwing it in the trash,” he said.
The partially filled recycling cart, theoretically, becomes the full one for the next week’s collection.
As for the city, Beneduce said recycling trucks “are being maximized now and that’s a good thing.”
So far, he said, there are few incidents where trucks have had to make more than one run to the landfill a day. In cases where recycling trucks are filled before completing their routes, other trucks have been able to complete the routes.
Beneduce also reminded residents to double-bag shredded paper in clear plastic bags, another change geared toward efficient recycling.
Shredded paper results from people following recommendations to destroy personal documents to avert identity theft. The shreds have been the bane of the new $16.7 million recycling system at Resource Recovery. Huge blowers are used to separate paper from other recyclables and, as Beneduce says, the shredded paper blows everywhere. Double bagging the shredded paper prevents that and enables pickers at the landfill to separate it from the rest of the recyclables.
Even before implementation of the recycling cart rule and mixed recyclables, Warwick had one of the higher rates of recycling in the state, at about 26 percent. When yard waste is taken into account (which is dealt with at the city’s composting station), the collection of recyclables, compared to the overall waste stream, exceeds 50 percent.